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September 15, 2015

Is It Possible to Recognize a Major Scientific Discovery?

Author Affiliations
  • 1Stanford Prevention Research Center, Department of Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California
  • 2Department of Health Research and Policy, Stanford University School of Medicine
  • 3Department of Statistics, Stanford University School of Humanities and Sciences
  • 4Meta-Research Innovation Center at Stanford (METRICS), Stanford University
JAMA. 2015;314(11):1135-1137. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.9629

Biomedical research is clearly blossoming in terms of accumulated data, evolving technologies, and published articles. The pace of growth has been rapid and can seem vertiginous at times. This issue of JAMA concludes a 9-month series of stimulating Viewpoints on the theme of Scientific Discovery and the Future of Medicine.1 The richness of the ideas that have been summarized by brilliant, world-caliber investigators deserves attention and acknowledgment. However, few advances in biomedical science materialize into human applications that affect health; even when successful, the translation sometimes takes several decades.2,3 Thus, a tantalizing question remains: which of the most promising ideas will soon prove to be most important, translatable, and life saving? Is it possible to identify a major scientific discovery when first reported?

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