Grizzly Bear

Big Pharma Calls Out Doctored Data

Remember the sensational headlines a year ago about “A Grizzly Answer for Obesity” in the New York Times and elsewhere? Well, all that buzz was created by a study of grizzly bears with doctored data. And the story about how a Big Pharma company, Amgen, rooted out the corrupted data didn’t make the New York Times. It’s not sensational enough and it doesn’t fit the popular narrative of research biased for commercial interests.

The routine work of assuring scientific integrity is rather boring. In this case it involved a data audit by Amgen and an internal investigation that concluded one of their scientists altered data in a way that made results of the grizzly bear study look stronger. Upon finding this discrepancy, the other authors of the study (from Amgen and two universities) asked the journal Cell Metabolism to withdraw the study.

All this may be boring, but it gets to the heart of how bias creeps into popular conceptions of scientific knowledge. Tedious pursuit of true insights from reliable data rarely yields sensational headlines. And countless personal biases, as well as institutional biases, can influence findings along the way.

It’s only through relentless pursuit of research with scientific integrity that we will gain better insight into a complex problem like obesity. Sensational headlines and biased suppositions only confuse the issue.

Click here and here here to read more about the doctored data. Click here to revisit the sensational story.

Grizzly Bear, photograph © Eric Bégin / flickr

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September 3, 2015