When you read about the results of a new study or research project, do you take it as a proven fact that is indisputable? Or, do you take it in with some degree of skepticism. Because I am interested in wine I enjoy reading research about benefits of wine. But, now I realize not all research is created equal; there seems to be ulterior motives to consumer oriented research. Based upon peoples experiences they are most likely to assess or be judgmental about research findings in areas in which they have some knowledge. Often, findings from research find their way into product claims-will reduce wrinkles, improve your joints, etc. The most ubiquitous industry for making claims is in personal care/cosmetics. Claims that can be subjective and/or are based on superficial studies, are most common.
It is hard to pick up a paper or view the results of some study reported on TV without seeing proclamations of some profound study findings; some new, others negative and some offer hope for a better product. The questions that begs asking therefore: Is all research and reported findings to be taken as fact? Are there biases in research? Is all research based upon scientific protocol? To add perspective to these questions we need to recognize that every interest group uses research/studies/findings/hypothetical results to promote an agenda or cause. This is true Prostate Protocol in politics, government, healthcare, conservation, environmental, farming, business-where there is something to be gained there will be a study launched with results to justify something.
Obviously, a research or study project has the result of proving or disproving something-beneficial or not. It is important to note, not all research is scientific.
I do not want to belabor the point that not all research findings are information you want to base your life on or that are intrinsically harmful; sometimes findings are just fun to read about as entertainment. Let me give some examples. Many years ago, I decided to get into the anti-aging products business, I established some product concepts and objectives as to how these products were to help consumers. I started out looking at ingredients that were advertised in the trades as accomplishing some of the objectives for each product. I wanted to see the research on these ingredients. That was when I discovered the research was all conducted by the companies selling the ingredient. Bottom-line, the research was not indisputable and none were independently controlled studies. Product benefits, whether vitamins or personal care, have findings that are not solid.
How often have we made a lifestyle change based on lifestyle oriented research initiated by a group with an unreported agenda? For example, 20 years ago there was a great deal of information in the media from medical groups that said consumers should not drink more than 2 cups of coffee per day. Now doctors are saying coffee is a great anti-oxidant and consumers should drink all the coffee they want, if for no other reason than it has health benefits. What changed?
Another quick example, after drinking orange juice daily, doctors are now telling adults to cut down on orange juice consumption because it can cause increases in diabetes.
Also, consumers have been told to change oil in automobiles every 3,000 miles. Now, due to improvements in oil additives, some in the conservation community says we should only change oil every 5,000 miles; all based upon research findings. Whose research, I ask?
So, why are most published research findings false? This is a question, presented and answered by John P. A. Ioannidis of Stanford University. Here are his explanations.