The obesity wars and the education of a researcher: A personal account.

Published on Jun 15, 2021in Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases6.763
· DOI :10.1016/J.PCAD.2021.06.009
Katherine M. Flegal98
Estimated H-index: 98
(Stanford University)
Sources
Abstract
A naive researcher published a scientific article in a respectable journal. She thought her article was straightforward and defensible. It used only publicly available data, and her findings were consistent with much of the literature on the topic. Her coauthors included two distinguished statisticians. To her surprise her publication was met with unusual attacks from some unexpected sources within the research community. These attacks were by and large not pursued through normal channels of scientific discussion. Her research became the target of an aggressive campaign that included insults, errors, misinformation, social media posts, behind-the-scenes gossip and maneuvers, and complaints to her employer. The goal appeared to be to undermine and discredit her work. The controversy was something deliberately manufactured, and the attacks primarily consisted of repeated assertions of preconceived opinions. She learned first-hand the antagonism that could be provoked by inconvenient scientific findings. Guidelines and recommendations should be based on objective and unbiased data. Development of public health policy and clinical recommendations is complex and needs to be evidence-based rather than belief-based. This can be challenging when a hot-button topic is involved.
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