The first chapter of Richard Harris’ book, Rigor Mortis, uses many shocking statistics, anecdotes and examples to ultimately support one idea: scientists are wasting money and time on poorly executed experiments. After reading the introduction, I chose to research the term rigor mortis. In an article it is described as “the stiffening of the body after death because of a loss of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) from the body’s muscles.” I understand that the title is a play on words describing how there is a lack of accuracy in biomedical research, but after reading the first chapter, it seems that scientists may be losing their energy to correctly preform their work. This is not to suggest that they don’t want to attain useful results. It’s that they are so eager to reach them, they disregard using correct lab technique and publish partially false reports. As I was reading all of the information the author was presenting, I started to wonder if the researchers were consciously doing this. It seems to me that the scientists behind these reports wouldn’t want to release false results, as finding cures is what they have devoted their careers to. Perhaps they unintentionally make biased decisions or, as Richard Harris described in his book, publish results that support their hypothesis better. They make small changes that may display a hopeful conclusion, but aren’t actually helpful or reproducible. I have also begun to wonder if the number of incorrect biomedical findings could increase due to researchers using other inaccurate reports as information for their studies. This would create yet another false report and possibly be used by another researcher, resulting in a cycle of faulty reports.
I understand that the inaccuracy of many biomedical studies is harmful because they create false hope and waste millions of dollars in funding. Harris writes, “When potential drugs make it into the more rigorous pharmaceutical testing regimes, nine out of ten fail” (page 17). However, within our labs at school, we are often told that our mistakes allow us to attain accurate and helpful results in future experiments. We typically already know what kind of outcome we are looking for. For scientists testing new drugs, they don’t have insurance they will work, and are criticized for having failures. Once again, I recognize that they are professionals who should be creating reproducible labs and that these defeats waste resources, especially time and money, but it seems unfair to expect the majority of tests to succeed.
Overall, “Begley’s Bombshell”, the first chapter of Rigor Mortis, has surprised me and made me question the information available to me. It has lead me to be skeptical of the things I read and cite within my schoolwork.