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The Reproducibility Crisis in Anesthesiology (and elsewhere)

The Reproducibility Crisis in Anesthesiology (and elsewhere)

Have you ever tried to replicate a published finding and failed? If you’re just starting out as a researcher, you might be inclined to blame yourself. Just as likely, though, that result you’re aiming to replicate is not true to begin with.

Reproducibility issues in science and medicine are nothing new. The most egregious  examples involve outright forgery and capture headlines – in his prime, Jan Hendrik Schön was publishing in Science or Nature about every six weeks, supporting the idea that only huge lies are worth telling. Then, there are those like Dr. Hwang Woo Suk, the eminent South Korean stem cell biologist who mixed in actual feats of stem cell biology with gross ethical and sientific misconduct.

In anesthesia & critical care, fraudulent science can have real repercussions on human health – the widespread use and perceived safety of hyroxyethyl starch (HES), a widely used resuscitation fluid in many critical care settings, was based on nearly one hundred retracted studies by German anesthesiologist Joachim Boldt. Today, HES use has fallen off substantially given its now-known association with renal failure, coagulopathy and increased risk of death.

The grey area, where a researcher falls into the trap of misinterpreted data or inadequate statistical rigor can happen to the smartest and honest among us. Caveat lector!

We are pleased to post a lecture presented at the 2017 IARS meeting by Dr. Steven Shafer on the Reproducibility Crisis. A former editor-in-chief of Anesthesia & Analgesia, Dr. Shafer is one of the leading national figures in the push for higher standards of reproducibility in research. Currently at Stanford University, he has had a long career in anesthesiology – known as much for his classic work on opioid pharmacology as for his role in the Michael Jackson manslaughter trial.

Why Most Anesthesiology (and other) Research is False

by Steven L. Shafer, MD

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