Death of medical articles?

Check out this article on “Improbable Research”. In short, it’s an application that can take raw data and write an article around it. Personally, I think it’s a good thing if the result is more objective and complete than most journalistic writing we see today. Can’t be less researched, at least.

But it also goes to show the opposite, which has a bearing on medical publications. In medicine, we have a huge problem with the sheer amount of articles published. If you want to find out the state of art in some particular disease or treatment, you have to collect a number of articles, skim through them, try to get at the original data that was used (very hard) and make up your mind. There’s not much guarantee of objectivity in selection or interpretation of the articles, and very little objective data on how reliable the articles are. If you can find a (reliable) meta study, it’s easier.

If a machine can produce medical articles based on study data, and those articles look like the real thing, this proves that the prose in the article is not a real value add. In other words, nothing in the text adds information beyond what the raw data already contains. And if it does, it’s probably misleading and wrong, anyway.

In conclusion, this only goes to show that what we need is more studies and less articles. What we need is immediate access to the raw data of all relevant studies and a desktop application that lets us view and manipulate the total of that data according to our needs, without going through the complications of reading articles and reverse-engineer the texts down to the objective facts hiding behind them.

Maybe this heralds the death of medical publishing as it looks today, and if so, good riddance.

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