Monday, January 9, 2012

Washington Post Confuses "Research," "Experiment," and "Medical Experiment"

On January 1, the Washington Post ran an editorial, "Medical Experiments on Humans," claiming that "in 2010, the federal government funded 55,000 experiments worldwide on human subjects" and citing "Moral Science."

But "Moral Science" does not make that claim. Rather, it states that "The federal government supported more than 55,000 human subjects research projects around the globe in fiscal year 2010, mostly in medical and health-related research, but also in other fields such as education and engineering." It does not break the 55,000 figure into experimental and non-experimental approaches.

The editorial shows some awareness of the complexity of human subjects research, noting that many people "take part in projects fueled by federal dollars that focus on social science and education research." But the editorial's headline, "Medical Experiments," does not match the data in the body of the editorial. As we proceed with regulatory reform, I hope editorial boards will learn to read and write more carefully.

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