Blockchain to Bring Transparency and Ethics Back to Scientific Studies
“According to a recent study…”
A common phrase we constantly hear in the news. And often, these studies will reveal breakfast is not the most important meal of the day, pasta can make you lose weight, and butter is good for your health.
They all may sound fine and dandy when a reporter, or someone dressed in a fancy lab coat with an authoritative voice announces it, but do we really know the reality and implications behind these studies?
For the past decade, issues have been raised about the lack of transparency and ethical methods within medical/scientific studies. Reports have seen multiple studies failing to publicize specific data related to the research, or they delay their publication in order to manipulate that data, or the study is not even published at all due to undesirable results.
A majority of these studies are conducted by public universities and pharmaceutical companies, which means they are publicly funded. So, if the public is funding these studies then all findings and facts should be made available and viewed by the public.
By simply putting the studies on the blockchain, we can achieve transparency and the secrecy will fade away. The public will see the whole picture, and not just filtered results that show a manipulated picture. Researchers can upload results as it happens as well as any changes within the study, thus reducing any tampering. The public can view the step-by-step process in real time.
Another component that is rarely identified in typical studies is the funder or sponsor of the study. The public would like to know who the funder or sponsor of the study is to avoid a conflict of interest and manipulation in order to enhance their own product.
The lack of transparency also relates to the lack of data sharing. Studies lacking the truth of these results fail to show the full context. These hidden facts don’t reveal the possible benefits or risks of these products, which could possibly effect the patient’s safety in a harmful way.
When the public hears about how chocolate or wine will make you lose weight, they should know who the participants in the study were. The patient will keep their anonymity, but what should be published is the gender, age, and race of the participants. While most results state who is eligible to participate, some exclude the information to the actual participants. Let’s say there’s a study of women’s health and the study only used 50 women out of 200 participants. This should be published so the public is not misconstrued into thinking it is the best product for them when the study lacks proper evidence.
It may sounds silly, but studies should also include whether or not their test subjects were human or not. There are many studies that publicly state they were conducted on animals to better understand our psyche and physical health. However, some studies fail to mention if certain animals are involved in the study. So if a study comes out about how much alcohol or food we can consume to lose weight, we must know that mice were used instead of humans. The transparency of the blockchain would prevent all this data from being forgotten.
Clinical or scientific studies already register their trials on a few different sites, especially ClinicalTrials.gov. But putting them on the blockchain, or one specific DApp, would bring more validity to this process. The public can see if certain studies contradict each other’s findings, and replication or third party studies can be conducted to verify the findings. And best of all, the blockchain would prevent any manipulation of any results.
The blockchain can put the honesty back into the scientific field. The public puts so much trust into those studies because they assume that dedicated people in the field have their best interest, and the science behind their results is not duping them. However, omitted information is far too often a culprit. These studies have a responsibility to take care of the public, not just to achieve favorable results.
For a problem that’s been going on for decades, it seems that the blockchain is the only rational solution.