Evolution and translation of research findings: from bench to where?

PLoS Clin Trials. 2006 Nov 17;1(7):e36. doi: 10.1371/journal.pctr.0010036.


The credibility and replication of research findings evolve over time, as data accumulate. However, translation of postulated research promises to real-life biomedical applications is uncommon. In some fields of research, we may observe diminishing effects for the strength of research findings and rapid alternations of exaggerated claims and extreme contradictions--the "Proteus Phenomenon." While these phenomena are probably more prominent in the basic sciences, similar manifestations have been documented even in clinical trials and they may undermine the credibility of clinical research. Significance-chasing bias may be in part responsible, but the greatest threat may come from the poor relevance and scientific rationale and thus low pre-study odds of success of research efforts. Given that we currently have too many research findings, often with low credibility, replication and rigorous evaluation become as important as or even more important than discovery. Credibility, replication, and translation are all desirable properties of research findings, but are only modestly correlated. In this essay, I discuss some of the evidence (or lack thereof) for the process of evolution and translation of research findings, with emphasis on the biomedical sciences.