Peer review and replication are critical to the scientific method,
but in medical trials, a combination of pharma company intransigence and
scientists’ fear of being pilloried for human error means that the raw
data that we base life-or-death decisions upon is routinely withheld,
meaning that the errors lurk undetected in the data for years – and
In an outstanding article for Buzzfeed, Ben “Bad Pharma”
Goldacre tries to untangle the complex web of phenomena that results in
trial-data secrecy, while conveying the urgency of independent auditing
of that data.
Adversarial peer review is the process by which your friends point out
your errors and your enemies call you an idiot for making them. It’s
bruising – and it’s become so uncommon that the press reports on human
error in studies as though it was a scandal, rather than the routine
phenomenon it really is. This creates a vicious cycle: researchers are
fearful of publishing their data, making the detection of errors into a
rarity. This rareness makes those errors into scandals. The scandals
make researchers reluctant to publish.
Well either they are knowingly hiding results to huge expensive trials or it’s a lot cheaper to just say you did the research than actually doing it.