Stelfox et al. (1998), a group of Toronto medical researchers
published a paper in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.
They explored the objectivity of sources of published information
on the use of calcium-channel blockers which are used to treat igh
blood pressure. In a study of 70 articles on channel-blockers,
Stelfox et al. (1998) used an anonymous reviewer method to
independently categorize the authors as "supporters", "neutral", or
"critical" of channel blockers, and then sent the authors
questionnaires to determine:
1. If supporters of Ca-channel blockers are more likely to have
financial ties to the manufacturers of Ca-channel blockers? Answer
% with financial ties to manufacturers: 96% of supporters; 60% of
neutral; 37% of critical authors
2. If critics of Ca-channel blockers more likely to have financial
ties to manufacturers of other competing products, e.g. beta
blockers etc.)? Answer - NO; the opposite was true.
% with financial ties to competing manufacturers: 88% of
supporters, 53% of neutral, and 37% of critical authors
3. If supporters of Ca-channel blockers more likely to have
financial ties with ANY pharmaceutical manufacturers? Answer - YES.
% with financial ties to ANY pharmaceutical company: 100% of
supportive; 67% of neutral; and 43% of critical authors
Clearly, the outcome of the research was influenced by the source
of funding for the research.
Reference: Stelfox, H.T. et al. 1998. Conflict of interest in the
debate over calcium-channel antagonists. New England Journal of
Now, for the rest of your comment -
> The problem is "objectivity", which some scientists believe so
> fervently (one might be tempted to say religiously) to be part and
> parcel of the practice of science. The problem is that the
> definition of objectivity is, itself, subjective - and most
> especially in science. As commonly applied, one is seen to
> be objective if one's values and beliefs conform to those of the
> perceiver; if not, then you are being subjective. I regret to say
> that too many of us are simply unable to see how our own values, and
> beliefs, are shaping, coloring, and indeed - dare I say it - biasing
> a) the questions we choose to ask, b) the treatments and
> measurements we choose to make, and c) ultimately, the very
> outcome of the research itself.
> BfB: This sounds like a quite appropriate summary of one paradigm
> describing another.
Sorry, you lost me there. How it a "paradigm" (perhaps I am
misunderstanding the term") to observe that one's values shape and
color the research that one does? Ann
Dr. E. Ann Clark
University of Guelph
Guelph, ON N1G 2W1
Phone: 519-824-4120 Ext. 2508
FAX: 519 763-8933
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