Publicly traded water utilities have investors wary, while agricultural land with water rights looks hot. But water investors also have to grapple with the risk to their reputations if they’re seen as profiting from the scarcity of a vital resource.
When doctors want to help untangle confusing and sometimes contradictory findings in the scientific literature, they often turn to specially crafted summary studies. These are considered the gold standard for evidence. But one of the leading advocates for this practice is now raising alarm about them, because they are increasingly being tainted by commercial interests.
For many years, these studies — called meta-analyses and systematic reviews — seemed to solve a big problem. Doctors who had once relied on each other's expert opinions to select the best treatments gradually turned to careful scientific studies instead.
But the number of studies mushroomed and often came to different conclusions. So in the 1990s, doctors and medical advisory committees started relying on studies that combined results from many different research projects to streamline the search for answers.
These kinds of studies are “extremely important,” says Dr. John Ioannidis, a professor of medicine health research and policy at Stanford University. He has conducted many of these types of studies over the course of his career. “They're trying to make some sense out of a very convoluted scientific and medical literature.”
But Ioannidis says unfortunately things have gotten out of hand. First, “the problem is that there are just too many meta-analyses,” Ioannidis says.
In a recent study on the subject, titled “The Mass Production of Redundant, Misleading, and Conflicted Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses,” he chose as an example studies involving antidepressant drugs. “There are 185 of them published in the literature within seven years, which means about 25 of them published every year for the very same drugs and the very same indication, major depression,” Ioannidis said.
What's worse, they're increasingly being generated by scientists who have financial interests in the outcome, Ioannidis found.
“About 80 percent of them have been funded or have some other conflicts of Read More ...