(Natural News) Headlines about health studies often leave people confused and frustrated, with a study claiming that a certain food is bad for you often contradicted by one that says the opposite just days or months later. When you throw the financial interests of various studies’ sponsors into the mix, it’s no surprise that many people take scientific studies with a huge grain of salt. However, even die-hard study skeptics are likely to believe new research that shows scientific papers regularly spin their results.
After reviewing 35 published academic studies of the phenomenon of “spin” or “science hype” in biomedical scientific papers, researchers from the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre and Faculty of Pharmacy discovered that more than 26 percent of studies known as meta-analyses or systematic reviews contained spin. When they focused solely on non-randomized trials, the proportion skyrocketed to an alarming 84 percent.
The spin came in many forms throughout the studies in question. Some made inappropriate claims about results that were not statistically significant, while others attributed causality when it was not possible. Studies also used selective reporting, like choosing only to mention certain data in the conclusions, and some made inappropriate recommendations that were not backed up by the study’s results. There were also many instances of studies painting data in a deceivingly positive light, such as by writing abstracts that were overly optimistic, underreporting any adverse events, and describing the study’s design in a way that was misleading.
A lot of this spin was connected to outside influence on the scientists in question, and more research is needed to uncover the extent of this behavior. Study co-author Professor Lisa Bero said: “The contribution of research incentives and reward structures — for example financial and reputational — that rely on ‘positive’ conclusions in order to publish and garner media attention is yet to be addressed.”