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Sunday, May 15, 2016

Is 85% of health research really “wasted”?

BMJ Blogs: The BMJ » Blog Archive » Paul Glasziou and Iain Chalmers: Is 85% of health research really “wasted”?

  14 Jan, 2016
Our estimate that 85% of all health research is being avoidably “wasted” [Chalmers & Glasziou, 2009] commonly elicits disbelief. Our own first reaction was similar: “that can’t be right?” Not only did 85% sound too much, but given that $200 billion per year is spent globally on health and medical research, it implied an annual waste of $170 billion. That amount ranks somewhere between the GDPs of Kuwait and Hungary. It seems a problem worthy of serious analysis and attention. But how can we estimate the waste?
Let’s break up the 85% figure by its components. The easiest fraction to understand is the fraction wasted by failure to publish completed research. We know from follow up of registered clinical trials that about 50% are never published in full, a figure which varies little across countries, size of study, funding source, or phase of trial [Ross, 2012]. If the results of research are never made publicly accessible—to other researchers or to end-users—then they cannot contribute to knowledge. The time, effort, and funds involved in planning and conducting further research without access to this knowledge is incalculable.
Publication is one necessary, but insufficient, step in avoiding research waste. Published reports of research must also be sufficiently clear, complete, and accurate for others to interpret, use, or replicate the research correctly. But again, at least 50% of published reports do not meet these requirements [Glasziou, 2014].


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