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October 4, 2016

What Happens When Underperforming Big Ideas in Research Become Entrenched?

Author Affiliations
  • 1Laboratory of Human Integrative Physiology and Department of Anesthesiology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota
  • 2Departments of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Pediatrics and Human Development, College of Human Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing
  • 3Stanford Prevention Research Center, Department of Medicine and Meta-Research Innovation Center at Stanford, Stanford University, Stanford, California
JAMA. 2016;316(13):1355-1356. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.11076

For several decades now the biomedical research community has pursued a narrative positing that a combination of ever-deeper knowledge of subcellular biology, especially genetics, coupled with information technology will lead to transformative improvements in health care and human health. In this Viewpoint, we provide evidence for the extraordinary dominance of this narrative in biomedical funding and journal publications; discuss several prominent themes embedded in the narrative to show that this approach has largely failed; and propose a wholesale reevaluation of the way forward in biomedical research.

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