Editorials

Time for evidence based research policy

BMJ 2016; 353 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i3146 (Published 13 June 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;353:i3146
  1. David Edgerton, Hans Rausing professor of the history of science and technology
  1. King’s College London
  1. david.edgerton{at}kcl.ac.uk

And publicly funded researchers need to be candid about the likely impact of research

Doctors are familiar with overhyped claims from drugs companies and medical researchers. Once upon a time new drugs did do revolutionary things—today one might be forgiven for thinking the hype, not the making of powerful new drugs, is the business. The hype gets exceptionally uncritical coverage in media which should know better, and no obligation is felt to give a realistic appraisal of the likely impact on treatment or its timescale.

Such claims generate, rather than reflect, a deficient “public understanding of science.” But their impact and prevalence tells us of something more serious: a deficient elite understanding of the realities of modern innovation.

For example, in few areas of policy is the level of discussion as low as that around research. Policy is not so much evidence based as hype based. Indeed some might even argue that it should be …

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