Subjective or objective
July 12, 2019•169 words
Modern medical research claims to be objective and reproducible. The reproducibility has, however, recently been questioned. One explanation for this could be that while the findings may appear to be based on sound objective research, they actually just represent subjective opinion.
In contrast to well-performed clinical trials many laboratory studies, including those based on statistically correct methods, do not have a well-defined pre-specified study design linking the investigated study hypothesis with the many statistical null hypotheses tested by the investigator. Instead of letting the experiment directly provide the outcome of the study, as in a randomised trial, the investigator uses his or her expert knowledge to interpret an abundance of p-values and to formulate an expert opinion about the study hypothesis.
Apart from the subjectivity and fallibility of this experimental strategy, another drawback is that statistically oriented reviewer comments, for example regarding the consequences of misinterpretated p-values and unfulfilled methodological assumptions, tend to be perceived as a questioning of the investigator's biomedical expertise, which does not facilitate methodological improvement.