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June 24, 2013

Nullius In Verba: Don't Take Anyone's Word for It

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Department of Primary Health Care Sciences, University of Oxford, Oxford, England.

JAMA Intern Med. 2013;173(12):1049-1050. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.823

The fact that you are reading this article makes you an unusual physician. Most jobbing clinicians—myself among them—do not naturally gravitate to the leading medical journals of record. These journals loom as repositories of primary research of a kind that is interpretable generally only by experts and is often either misleading or irrelevant. We start from a position of skepticism. And this is perfectly right, because that is the true starting point of science. Nullius in verba (roughly translated as “Don't take anyone's word for it”) was the motto adopted by the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge in 1660; it was also the principle which inspired the Society to publish its “Philosophical Transactions giving some Accompt [ie, Account] of the present Undertakings, Studies and Labours of the Ingenious in many Considerable Parts of the World.”1

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