Savitz, David A. (2001). Commentary: Prior Specification of Hypotheses: Cause or Just a Correlate of Informative Studies?. International Journal of Epidemiology, 30(5)
Published epidemiological studies are prone to spurious positive findings. This is not just an issue bearing on the discipline's credibility to outsiders but a fundamental methodological concern. Epidemiologists must accept the challenge to improve research methods, publish findings regardless of their implications, and objectively appraise the validity of our results and those of our colleagues. Results are often dichotomized as ‘positive’ or ‘negative’, despite the loss of quantitative information resulting from this practice. The aetiology of false positive reports is surely multifactorial. Some of this falls to the media and the public for overinterpretation. Some results from the exuberance of investigators who advertise their most surprising, dramatic findings, despite the fact that results that run counter to the conventional wisdom are most likely to be erroneous. Human beings (not just epidemiologists) can become enamoured with their own achievements, lose objectivity, and seek the fame and fortune that result from startling discoveries. We need to improve the resolution of our methods and devote greater energy to helping to ensure appropriate use (or lack of use, in many cases) of our findings by policy makers and the public.
International Journal of Epidemiology
Savitz, David A.