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June 5, 2002

Poor-Quality Medical ResearchWhat Can Journals Do?

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Cancer Research UK/NHS Centre for Statistics in Medicine, Oxford, England.

JAMA. 2002;287(21):2765-2767. doi:10.1001/jama.287.21.2765

The aim of medical research is to advance scientific knowledge and hence—directly or indirectly—lead to improvements in the treatment and prevention of disease. Each research project should continue systematically from previous research and feed into future research. Each project should contribute beneficially to a slowly evolving body of research. A study should not mislead; otherwise it could adversely affect clinical practice and future research. In 1994 I observed that research papers commonly contain methodological errors, report results selectively, and draw unjustified conclusions. Here I revisit the topic and suggest how journal editors can help.