John Oliver Discusses Scientific Studies

Things that stood out for me (some of these are my own thoughts):

  • A press release can turn a non-event into an event.
  • No one wants to do replication studies because there’s no money in it. So our knowledge, the body of evidence on a particular topic, doesn’t grow.
  • Bias takes many forms. (Researchers are under the gun to get published. Corporations want to advertise their products via “science.” Publishers want to appease their sponsors.)
  • All studies, even small ones or those done on animals, have value. We just need to put them in perspective. (I also think that studies people say are flawed can be useful, even if it’s to help design a better study.)

What do you think?

6 thoughts on “John Oliver Discusses Scientific Studies

  1. David Dreyfus

    Clearly, Oliver’s staff has a researcher on it, because while funny, he is speaking the truth. Ha!

    My thoughts:
    Replication is important, but I think many researchers would find doing replication studies boring. But, our body of knowledge is growing. It means that replications are being done on pieces of research, but not an exact replication. For example, by obtaining the same result as previous research on a piece of a research model, one can extend that model to include something new. This “something new” is what gets you published and it partially replicates previous research.

    Bias is never going away. Disclosure of biases may need to increase, instead of tucked away in the Limitations section or footnote of a paper.

    Interesting research that is flawed may have value, especially if it sparks further research and debate. However, there is plenty of flawed research that is getting published and doesn’t add value.

    I like his highlighting the absurdity of how people accept research presented to them on the news as fact, as most people are not likely to go search more about a topic. Similarly, we are so distracted and busy that we don’t stop to think and ask ourselves if this research or line of reasoning makes sense.


  2. Melinda

    Replication used to be the very basis of modern scientific method. Replication not just by the original experimenter but also by others, all around the world. That’s the gold standard of science. Or it was. If young would-be scientists now find it too boring, then I think we’re worse off for it. Just my opinion (and Gary’s, whose background is in physics and biology).


    1. Bix Post author

      I think this is the beer study:

      Effects of moderate beer consumption on health and disease: A consensus document, Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases

      Something it says which the news article didn’t:

      “Consumption of beer, at any dosage, is not recommended for children, adolescents, pregnant women, individuals at risk to develop alcoholism, those with cardiomyopathy, cardiac arrhythmias, depression, liver and pancreatic diseases, or anyone engaged in actions that require concentration, skill or coordination.”



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