Lower changing incidences of disease over time do not necessarily mean that the number of patients in care also goes down, as the prevalence of the disease is a function of incidence and mortality. “Death Cures”. Combine this notion with the fact that both the incidence and mortality rates of the different stroke subtypes change different over time, and you will see that the group of patients that suffer from stroke will be quite different from the current one.
Today, I’ve read a long read from the onderzoekdsredactie, which is a Dutch initiative for high quality research journalism. In this article they present their results from their research into the conflicts of interest of profs in the Netherlands. They were very thorough: they published a summary in article from, but also made sure that all methodological choices, the questionnaire they used, the results etc are all available for further scrutiny of the reader. It is a shame though that the complete dataset is not available for further analyses (what characteristics make that some prof do not disclose their COI?)
The results are, although unpleasant to realise, not new. At least not to me. I can imagine that for most people the idea of prof with COI is indeed a rarity, but working in academia I’ve seen numbers of cases to know that this is not the case. The article that I’ve read was thorough in their analyses: it is not only because profs just want to get rich, but this concept of the prof as an entrepreneur is even supported by the Dutch government. Recent changes in the funding structure of research makes that ‘valorisation’, spinn-offs and collaboration with industry partners are promoted. this is all to further enlarge the ‘societal impact’ of science. These changes mightinded enforce such a thing, but I think that the academic freedom that researchers have should never be the victim.
Fraud, shoddy and sloppy science, conflicts of interest… Who said a science career is boring? When I write on these topics I sometimes have the feeling that I am doing science more harm than good; am I doing science a favor by showing its weaknesses and caveats? The answer still remains yes, for I believe that we need problems need to be identified before you can act on them. This is also the theme of this post: What is all being done on these topics in the last couple of days. A point by point list:
- AllTrials: The AllTrials initiative which I support is going into its next round.Pharmaceutical companies are opening up (LEO, GSK), there are hearings in brussels and the debate in Medical journals (especially the BMJ, as one of the founders of AllTrials) is going on. Great stuff!
- PubMed commons (a commenting system in PubMed, as a new post publication peer review) got online. It’s still a trial, but boy this is cool. I love its punchline: “A forum for scientific discourse”.
- We organised a try out of our ‘on being a scientist’ workshop on which i wrote earlier this post. IN this post i say that is if going to be a LUMC workshop, but this changed to a workshop for all starting PhD students from the university Leiden, thus including all faculties. I am truly exciting and it our first run in november works out, this workshop might even become part of the official PhD education program of the university Leiden. The economist published a coverstory on How science goes wrong. It tells how science, peer review, statistical false positives etc work. It is a good read, especially when you are interested in science as a social process. Some remarks can be made: it’s not all that bad because scientist tend to be familiar with how the system works… the system might not be perfect, but it is at the moment the best we can do… luckily there are ways to get better, ways that are also discussed in the article.It is good that the economist and other media shares these concerns, because now this might up to build to critical mass to really change some of the weak points in the system. I thought about using the graph published next to the paper, but once I discovered the animated version of the graph i fell in love. See for yourself below. (PS false positives: another reason why not only to rely on statistical testing!)
- – edit: i changed the title of the pot… the first title was a bit pretentious –
(image via litroost)
I use Mendeley (paid subscription) to keep track of my literature and as a reference manager etc. I even use it as my main method to share my publication on the internet (see also my personal Mendeley profile) I like it. I like it a lot. Sure, there were some hiccups, it being start-up and all, but I like the idea: share with colleagues all the papers and your comments on them you need to write that paper. But now Mendeley has been bought by Elsevier, which is not really known for its friendly attitude towards the whole idea of sharing scientific articles. More about this Elsevier-Mendeley buying operation can be read in this column of the New Yorker. So what to do? cancel my subscription as a sign to the folks at Elsevier? Well, the guys from Mendeley promised that all will be all right (it will even get better!) and that the great adventure of sharing your literature and results will not be harmed with the acquisition, so perhaps canceling my subscription might be to fast. Let’s wait and see…
So I got an email from the folks from alltrials.net on their progress. I explained the initiative in an earlier post in which I also told that I as well as the Dutch Epidemiological Society (VVE) signed the petition. So did it help? Just read the following section from their email.
You, and 40,000 other people around the world, have signed the AllTrials petition. We are on the threshold of significant change, but we now urgently need help from all of you to make this a reality.
Your support has already persuaded hundreds of organisations to commit to the aim of getting all clinical trials registered and their results reported. These include regulators and faculties. GSK, one of the biggest drug companies in the world, has signed up and others are considering it. Some of these groups are now starting discussions about the practical ways to stop trial results being withheld.
So far we’ve created a ripple, and got some important commitments. We have empowered individuals in large organisations to speak up, and it has changed the mainstream opposition on this issue. In doing so, we have also challenged those who try to pretend that the problem doesn’t exist, or who falsely claim that it has already been fixed.
But this is only the start if you ask the alltrials.net folks: they want to push on with three goals:
- One million signatures on the petition.
- More international organisations signed up.
- £40,000 so we can keep going.
I can only agree: consider signing (if you haven’t done so already)!
Together with my colleague TdC from the department of geriatrics I am working on a workshop for starting PhD students on the topic of scientific integrity under the working title “On being a scientist: a workshop in scientific integrity”
The LUMC code of scientific integrity, the recent KNAW report of cie. Schuyt and the publication of the National Academy of Science “On being a scientist” will form the backbone of the this workshop (see also the video below of the NAS, with the great quote “scientist should be people too!”). We are still developing the actual content, but this workshop will primarily based on several cases that will be discussed, ranging from cases of clear scientific misconduct to cases of conflicting demands of supervisors. How can you spot these problems in advance, solve or preferably prevent them? What additional measure should be put in place to sustain a critical but workable environment?
I am excited that I can be part of the team that develops this workshop. As I said before, I do not believe that this workshop will prevent all possible scientific misconduct, but I do believe that educating PhD students helps to prevent hem from making honest mistaken. Also, I hope that this course will help to create a critical but positive atmosphere in which science will thrive.
This workshop will be part of the PhD training that the LUMC offers free of charge. The first edition of the this workshop will be held on September 18 2013. Please contact me via email for more information.
video “on being a scientist” from the NAS
I just received a letter from the KNAW stating that the grant proposal I sent to one of the fund of the KNAW, the van Leersumfunds, was awarded. From their website, we can only learn a little about this fund:
“The Van Leersum Fund supports neuro(bio)logical, radiological and pharmaceutical research by awarding a series of research grants.
The Fund was established in 1922 and is named after P. van Leersum. The assets of the fund are made up of his estate and the estate of Ms I.G. Harbers-Kramer.”
With this grant we will be able to measure coagulation favtor VIII in the ischaemic stroke substudy of the RATIO study. Coagulation factor FVIII is one of the most potent risk factors for venous thrombosis in the coagulation system, and were quite curious what effect it has on the risk of ischaemic stroke in young women.