Monday, October 1, 2007

Double-edged training of medical researchers

It may raise as well as lower the quality of medical studies, and when it comes to money, the best fundraisers most likely will be the worst scientists. This conclusion is to be drawn from a study about the influence of training and mentoring on the misbehaviour of scientists: More than seven thousand social and biomedical researchers have been surveyed. All of them have received research support from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, partly early and partly in the middle of their careers.

The most important outcome is that scientists who early in their career have been supported in financial issues and in professional survival are more likely to show problematic behaviour that will lower the quality of their research than scientists who never have received this kind of support.

Even a training in research ethics at the beginning of a career is likely to increase the odds of handling data not properly. Only mentoring, that is, training plus monitoring of research ethics, will decrease the problematic behaviour and thus raise the quality of research.

The problematic influence of financial coaching is consistent with findings of other studies, stating that research funded by the industry is more likely to report positive effects of the products at stake, for instance in orthopedic research and for reporting effects in disputed remedies such as glucosamide against knee and hip pain.

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