Scientific Misrepresentation

On occasion people will take scientific reports (primary literature) and report the results in a way that is inaccurate or misleading.  What is behind misrepresentation like this could be any of the following:

  • The secondary article was written based on the abstract (summary of the study) instead of entire journal report.  Since it often costs money and takes effort to read a full report some secondary authors neglect to do this.  This is a problem because abstracts can exaggerate results by the way they are written.  (e.g. “A significant change in hot flashes” could mean that women had hot flashes 99 times a month instead of 100.  Scientifically significant, but not practically significant.)
  • The secondary article was biased to promote the practice or drug or whatever was being studied, instead of being a balanced report.
  • The author of the secondary article did not understand the study results.  Maybe the author doesn’t really know the difference between statistically significant and significant in a practical or real world sense.

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