May 17, 2014

Pay Walls and Other Road Blocks to Learning

This blog is written for people with diabetes, but applies to most diseases, illnesses and other maladies.

Develop a chronic disease and learning on the internet can become expensive. Unless you are a medical professional, access to many studies is nearly impossible for the average person. Even paid subscriptions are expensive; often the charge is by the study or a month of studies. For example, most studies behind the pay wall at the American Diabetes Association cost $25 per study. That would mean that for 16 studies, the cost would be $400.

That is not cheap and the average person could not afford this with the costs of medications and treatments increasing and the current insurance costs with large copays and medication copays. Then consider the junk science that is passed off as studies and it becomes a hellacious nightmare to know if you are receiving anything of value for your money.

There are many things to consider and often these are even kept out of the press and are not among standards or ethics of research. Some of these include the following:

  • financial conflicts of interest
  • inadequately rigorous selection criteria, outcome measures and criteria of statistical significance
  • the practice of testing products against placebo or no treatment and inclusion of control groups
  • recruiting subjects using financial incentives that introduce outcome bias
  • marketing campaigns masquerading as research
  • research agendas driven by corporate or individual interests rather than patient needs
  • extreme small studies using few participants
  • studies masquerading as human studies that are rodent studies
  • studies that are fabricated by excluding participants that would bias the study
  • studies that use healthy adults rather than people with the disease
  • using deceptive low doses of a medication
  • overly brief study periods to avoid averse results

The list could go on, but this gives you an idea of what makes it difficult to know about many studies. Are they really reliable and valuable for what you are searching for information? Often you can’t even trust press releases that just parrot what the researcher wants you to know in order to entice you in.

Until researchers are bound by a code of ethics and research standards with severe penalties, purchasing copies of studies hidden behind a pay wall is a farce at best and a ripoff most of the time. A research code of ethics and research standards are topics for other blogs.

Even most research extracts are misleading and missing important information from the above list. Research or study extracts provide just enough information to entice people to purchase a study. Even research extracts should have information inclusion standards to prevent misleading people.

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