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‘Expert’ Opinion on ‘Current research’: mental fast food?

In Evidence-Based Medicine on March 19, 2010 by Danielle Tagged: , , , , ,

I work appraising references for inclusion in evidence summaries for a variety of health conditions. I often come across reviews with titles like ‘current research’. Or else I see studies with more benign or vague titles published in ‘Expert Opinion in _____’ [insert name of disease or branch of medicine in the blank] or ‘Current Opinion in _____’. I use the words current/expert/opinion as a red flashing light to indicate that a study is not a systematic review unless the abstract strongly indicates that indeed it is.

My feeling is that ‘current research’ CANNOT actually be searched, as so many abstracts claim. ‘Research papers’ can be searched, but searching only for current research is lazy and pointless. How many papers are churned out each year with this sort of scope? While I understand the current incentive (pun intended) to keep on churning, perhaps publishers (or somebody!) ought to raise the bar for what is publishable.

After all, didn’t the general public lose heart in the Dickensian serials and didn’t that lead to the lean, spare short story?

Putting the section heading ‘recent findings’ into a structured abstract may grab the eye, perhaps without cheapening the content of a study. I believe that perhaps it may be down to the branches of medicine to be choosy- some branches tend to market less in abstracts by declaring their study to be ‘non-randomised’ or ‘unblinded’. This is always a breath of fresh air.

As this is an opinion piece, I welcome your thoughts on whether ‘current research’ adds real value to your life or career.

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