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Research on Research

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Research on Research


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Editors urge scientists toward objectivity and transparency, by standardizing basic research techniques.

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Medical journals were first to sound the alarm about the substandard quality of scientific studies they were asked to publish. With billions of corporate dollars and reputations at stake, many journals are demanding more accountability, objectivity and standardized data collection methods. This special feature section of Science explores why inept or dishonest research is a critical life-or-death issue, and how publications are working with researchers to solve it. It’s a must-read for anyone involved with scientific research, particularly those interested in medical journals.


Papers published in prestigious medical journals often “read like drug company ads.”

Drummond Rennie, deputy editor of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), formed a “Peer Review Congress” to study journal articles using scientific methodology. Stephen Lock, former editor of The British Medical Journal, coined the term “journalology” about 30 years ago to describe his stringent protocols for designing, conducting and publishing papers in journals. Recently, psychologists have followed suit, pointing to “irreproducible” results as unacceptable. Research on research, or “metaresearch,” is now a legitimate scientific field in many professions.

Medical research was a natural initiation for journalology, because its results can seriously impact lives.

Many journal editors now demand that authors register clinical trials in advance, and include details which allow for study replication. The Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) initiated a checklist, adopted by about 600 journals, that includes sample size, changes made after...

About the Authors

Martin Enserink is international news editor for Science. Jennifer Couzin-Frankel is a Science staff writer. Jop de Vrieze is a science writer in Amsterdam. Erik Stokstad is a reporter at Science. Kai Kupferschmidt is a contributing correspondent for Science based in Berlin, Germany.

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