Right last one, the final hurdle and all that jazz. Is it good science to manipulating the data and adding participants until you find an effect? We could in a way compare this question to a picture. An artist spends their hours attempting to perfect their creation, constant tweaking, adding colours here, more shading there, all in the pursuit of creating a masterpiece. But can we really think like this for something such as research? Sure given in a context similar to that it might seem fine, but let’s look at this more closely.
I’m going revisit some themes and arguments covered in my last blog, but both blogs are related to finding significant results so I guess some things are bound to crop up more than once. Let’s use the work of Allers et al as an example of some of the dangers of manipulating data. This research discusses the use of stem cell research as a potential cure for HIV. HIV is an incredibly prominent disease within certain cultures and is responsible for the death of millions of people every year. Now this research is only in starting stages, with treatment only being given to single patients. Now if this research is progressed this could maybe one day lead to a real cure to HIV, but what if the data is manipulated? Now I understand in this case patients will need to be added so that this research can be progressed further, but manipulating the data specifically to find significant results would be beyond unethical. The results need to be 100% certain on a condition as wide spread. Even if the condition is for a handful of people, it is the job of clinicians and professions to provide the highest level of care as possible, and with that honesty is needed. The clinician needs to have 100% confidence in their claims to patients, not say “well actually, this might not be a cure, we don’t know whether it works or not because the evidence was changed.”
In that sense, if we are changing data then all we are doing is kidding ourselves and others. At some point or another the truth will come to light, so why waste others time? Ok, I guess on an individual basis it’s better to publish significant results as it reflects better on them, but how can anyone truly be that selfish when it comes to the welfare of someone’s life? We have to think about the greater good of the whole thing and with this honesty is the best policy. By all means, if a researcher believes there is something significant within their area of study, then repeat the study, but do not simply an existing one to fit for purpose. This is both unethical and deceptive. We turn towards science for truth, facts about life and the universe, from the smallest components such as atoms, to how we exist on this planet. At the very least we want to adhere to this and carry on discovering new answers, and if we manipulate data and have to wriggle our way to get what we want, then that really isn’t good science. We can have confidence in the things that just stand out, not what we dig and dig for. Right blog (or should I say rant) finished, at last there done with!