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ResourcesResearch IntegrityTake science off the stand – Nature Medicine (March 2017)

Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

Take science off the stand – Nature Medicine (March 2017)

Published/Released on March 06, 2017 | Posted by Admin on May 8, 2017 / , , , , , ,

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The scientific process relies on people’s willingness to publish data-driven findings. Turning to the legal system to adjudicate the merit of evidence-based assertions in the scientific literature leads us down a dangerous path.

Those of us involved in research don’t consider the possibility that we might need to defend a project’s findings in court. This item refers to recent cases where that is exactly what happened and why we all should be troubled.

Scientists often publish their research findings with some trepidation. They may wonder if the results will be replicated, and whether the conclusions of their study will have influence on their field. One thing that rarely comes to mind is a concern of being sued in court. But there are examples of scientists coming under legal attack for expressing their data-driven findings. The potential chilling effect of such lawsuits on our modern scientific discourse cannot be ignored, nor should it be tolerated.
In a case reported on in January by STAT News, Harvard researcher Pieter Cohen had to defend himself in US federal court over a study that he had coauthored in the journal Drug Testing and Analysis (Drug Test. Anal. 8, 328–333, 2016). The study had analyzed popular supplements and looked for the presence of β-methylphenylethylamine (BMPEA), a compound that is chemically similar to amphetamines. It found BMPEA in six weight-loss products made by the company Hi-Tech Pharmaceuticals. The paper noted that the safety and efficacy of BMPEA had not been proven in human studies.

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