Friday, February 27, 2015

A closely guarded secret

Stealth Research. Is Biomedical Innovation Happening Outside the Peer-Reviewed Literature?

How can we identify a snake-oil seller?. Not so easy. Have a look  at JAMA, John Ioannidis article shows his concerns about Theranos, a company that is providing lab services with a new propietary technology that has no peer-review article in any scientific publication. Nobody can check tests sensibility and specifity, no external quality controls, and so on.
If this is the path for the future of health care provision, then I am really concerned because it will be a complete disaster. No consumer protection, no regulation, uncertain science and more uncertain outcomes. After all this years, is this what citizens deserve?.
Such style of "laissez-faire, laissez-passer" medicine could represent huge profits for some and a big loss for everyone.
Otherwise some alternative should be proposed to boost publication and transparency. The author's suggestion is the following one:
To solve this conundrum, it may be necessary to find ways to realign the reward system for innovation. One possibility is to make the scientific literature more receptive to innovators. This could include models in which reports of disruptive discoveries that are in dissonance with the mainstream can still be communicated as preprints without prior peer review, perhaps in the same way as the successful example of arXiv in the physical sciences, which has now reached 1 million e-print articles. That there has been no peer review of these initial reports should be transparent to researchers and the public.
Thus, some better regulatory process is needed so that innovative ideas for financially successful applications can be scrutinized by the wider scientific community as to their validity. A company should not be forced to disclose its science secrets in detail, especially while its efforts are still exploratory rial-and error and while creating basic elements for its products and services. However, if a product or service reaches the point at which it generates substantial revenue, the science behind it should then be communicated in detail to ensure adequate review.

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