Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Conflict of interest and openness

The New York Times had a long and extensive article on conflicts of interest in medicine. See Times article here. 

I was pleasantly surprised to see them discuss the concept that open access to data can help correct for bias if it occurs by allowing others to redo analyses.  For example: 

“Having everyone stand up like a Boy Scout and make a pledge isn’t going to quell suspicion,” said Dr. Donald Klein, an emeritus professor at Columbia, who has consulted with drug makers himself. “The only hope to rule out bias is to have open access to all data that’s produced in studies and know that there are people checking it” who are not on that company’s payroll.
Unfortunately the Times does not raise the issue of access to the publications themselves.  Clearly having the data is good.  But if nobody can read the papers and they can just read the press releases that come from the papers, we are all doomed.

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