Chapter 10 was the final chapter of Richard Harris’ book, Rigor Mortis. Unlike the rest of the chapters, which discuss the error in biomedical research, “Inventing a Discipline” talks about ways we can improve biomedical research.
At the beginning of Chapter 10, Mr. Harris introduces us to Dr. Steve Goodman. Dr. Steve Goodman worked as a biostatician and idemiologist at Johns Hopkins University and helps scientists design valid clinical trials. Dr. Goodman told the following to Mr. Harris: “To figure out what’s wrong and how to make research better, you have to study research. That’s what meta- research is. It’s not like metaphysics. It’s real. And we look at real things.” (page 217) This was refreshing to hear. But, it took us ten chapters to find out how to begin to correct the wrongs of research which was absurd.
One thing that I particularly enjoyed a little further along in the chapter was how Dr. Goodman and another physician, Dr. John Ioannidis decided to take medical research into their own hands. ” In the 1990s, he (Ioannidis) and Goodman independently became part of a wave to clean up the methods used in clinical medical research.” (pg 218) It was surprising to hear that way back when there was a wave of people trying to clean up errors in bio research. What happened to the concern for research that was present back then? Are researchers today just interested in the quick and easy way out of things? Mr. Harris sums up my previous questions with a favorable quote: “Scientists looking for ways to improve the reliability of laboratory research have much to learn from an earlier push to improve medical research involving human subjects.”(page 222)
In order to move towards the future, we have to look back at the past for guidance.
Towards the end of Rigor Mortis’ final chapter, Richard Harris introduces us to one last important person. This person is John Kimmelman, who works with biomedical ethics at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Kimmelman says that the majority of his ideas and beliefs about biomedical research come from looking at biomedical research as an interwoven system. I like how Mr. Kimmelman compares biomedical research as a whole as an interwoven system, because that’s kind of what it is. Many different components of biomedical research such as translational research, preclinical research, and clinical research all tie back into one another to form one big woven cloth.
The final concept introduced by Richard Harris in his book is the idea that ” …in order to speed the development of medicine, biomedical science should actually slow down. This means taking on fewer projects and doing them more carefully.”(page 235) Mr. Harris soon later dismisses the previous statement as “downright counter intuitive”. I disagree with Mr. Harris. I think that researchers taking their time on a certain project will help improve their results, which could have a large, positive effect on today’s biomedical research.
In the end, Rigor Mortis by Richard Harris was a very well-written book. Mr. Harris tackled a complex topic directly, encouraging starting a conversation that is badly needed inside of the research community. Rigor Mortis reminded me that flaws exist in all types of systems, and often we are unaware of the impact they can have. Scientific research is not any different, but the results can be far more broad. Because this enterprise (scientific/biomedical research) is both important and costly, there are many solutions to make the process better, but it is a human pursuit, and as usual, us humans are the biggest obstacles in the way of solving the process, and somehow the only hope.