La science peut se tromper

Jusqu'à présent, la découverte était souvent considérée comme l'objectif principal de la science médicale. Mais aujourd'hui il est devenu presque trop facile de faire une découverte. Quiconque bénéficie d'un peu de financement et de quelques échantillons biologiques dans un réfrigérateur peut facilement produire des milliers de résultats considérés comme des "découvertes".

La quantité de questions de recherche que l'on peut soulever croit de manière exponentielle. Avec un minuscule kit médical, on peut mesurer des millions de paramètres biologiques d'un individu à partir d'une quantité infinitésimale de sang. On peut soulever aussitôt un million de questions. Mais même avec des méthodes statistiques appropriées, en fonction du hasard, sur des dizaines de milliers de paramètres biologiques qui peuvent sembler importants, seuls une poignée d'entre eux le sont réellement. La grande majorité des travaux initiaux ne produisent que des résultats douteux.

Aussi, le principal problème est-il aujourd'hui de valider les travaux qui conduisent à des "découvertes" en les reproduisant sous différentes conditions. Plusieurs équipes de recherche doivent pouvoir les refaire autant de fois que nécessaire en utilisant les protocoles en vigueur. De plus, toutes ces équipes doivent convenir de ne pas rapporter uniquement les données qui paraissent les plus intéressantes. Car avec une information sélective, on aboutit à un grand nombre de fausses découvertes provenant de toutes ces équipes, avec seules quelques véritables découvertes enterrées dans une montagne de résultats qui n'ont pas été reproduits.

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