LYMEPOLICYWONK: Spin, spun and hung out to dry. Lyme, science and the truth barrier
We know spin when we hear it. Politicians like Bush (but not him alone) and talking points taken to the extreme. This is politics, right? So, why is Reuters calling research conclusions “spin” and why am I not surprised? Politicks as usual. At the IDSA hearing, one of the things that I asked the panel to do was to determine whether the conclusions of the key studies were supported by their findings or, instead, reflected the politics of this disease. A new study reported in Reuters talks about how conclusions and titles of studies become “spun” to support non-science agendas. Perhaps the bottom line is that you can take the science out of the man, but you cannot take the man out of the science. We regard science as sacrosanct, but inevitably it goes through the filter of a person, with all the human failings that entails, including observer bias, and, in our more jaded world, "spin". The Reuters article, tongue in cheek, says: “Scientists are no strangers to spinning their research, a new study — presumably not spun — shows.” Bottom line: ”In this representative sample of RCTs published in 2006 with statistically nonsignificant primary outcomes, the reporting and interpretation of findings was frequently inconsistent with the results.”
The article, dated May 25, is worth your time for a read, if you can spare it. Negative research often spun to look good. It certainly helps explain why pure science, is, well “not”. As a Lyme patient, you have to wonder–where would we be without spin? How many would be diagnosed, treated, and restored to their lives without a hiccup? And, when did “spin” become more important than patient lives?
For those wanting more detail–the results section from the article is below.
Results From the 616 published reports of RCTs examined, 72 were eligible and appraised. The title was reported with spin in 13 articles (18.0%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 10.0%-28.9%). Spin was identified in the Results and Conclusions sections of the abstracts of 27 (37.5%; 95% CI, 26.4%-49.7%) and 42 (58.3%; 95% CI, 46.1%-69.8%) reports, respectively, with the conclusions of 17 (23.6%; 95% CI, 14.4%-35.1%) focusing only on treatment effectiveness. Spin was identified in the main-text Results, Discussion, and Conclusions sections of 21 (29.2%; 95% CI, 19.0%-41.1%), 31 (43.1%; 95% CI, 31.4%-55.3%), and 36 (50.0%; 95% CI, 38.0%-62.0%) reports, respectively. More than 40% of the reports had spin in at least 2 of these sections in the main text.
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