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Research practices must be changed to minimize fraud, deception
Date:3/22/2011

Ann Arbor, Mich. In 1998, a study linking the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism in children appeared in a respected medical journal. For a decade, the study grabbed headlines worldwide. Worried parents rejected the life-saving vaccine for their children and those with autistic children agonized that they allowed an injection that caused the condition.

But the vaccine-autism research was a fraud. The paper was retracted 12 years later, denounced as an elaborate deception.

"The fraud in that MMR study epitomizes how fabricated research can lead to a domino effect of tragic consequences," says Vineet Chopra, M.D., F.A.C.P., F.H.M., assistant professor of Internal Medicine at U-M. "Patients fear potentially lifesaving interventions, clinicians alter practice and scientists and governments waste precious resources to evaluate researchers' claims."

Chopra expresses these concerns in a commentary published in the Journal of the American Medical Association March 23 with Matthew Davis, M.D., M.A.P.P., associate professor of pediatrics and communicable diseases, internal medicine and public policy at the University of Michigan Medical School and Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. They call for changes throughout the research process to adjust expectations for researchers that conduct studies, the journals that publish results and the public that responds to the findings.

Chopra and Davis emphasize the critical importance of equipoisea state of genuine uncertainty on the part of the researcher as to what a study will reveal.

"In an era of increasing competition for funding and publication, researchers face mounting pressure to report the results they wish to see," says Davis. "Of course, it's natural for the public to want unequivocal advances in understanding and the latest accomplishments in medical research. But research doesn't always yield those results.

"The key is for funders, journ
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Contact: Mary F. Masson
mfmasson@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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