In Part 3 of Reading Between the Drops, our series on Understanding Dry Eye Research, we look at the people who conduct studies and publish papers. We’ll ask first, who are the authors? And then, who paid for the study?
Who Are the Authors?
When you look at the authors of a study, sometimes you’ll see their first and middle initials, sometimes their full names, or sometimes their credentials, like PhD or MD. What’s displayed is based on the convention used by the journal that published the study.
But did you know the order of the names might also be important?
Traditionally, at least in bio-sciences, the first position is reserved for the individual who originated the idea for the study and is its primary author. The last person listed is sometimes reserved for an honorary authorship, or someone who oversaw the study. In between are individuals who contributed to it in some way, usually in diminishing order. So, the further down the list, the less they contributed.
The ordering of names in this way is just a rule of thumb and in fields other than bio-science other conventions are used. But sometimes life doesn’t make it so easy to assign a first and last position.
Sometimes two or more people share equal responsibility for an idea. And maybe there’s more than one person in charge. Anything else might happen too, like the departure of a primary author. Where does her name go then? Or what if two people contributed equally but one person thinks they contributed more?
So position might be important.
But it’s also important to ask who are the authors affiliated with? Is it a reputable organization? Where did they study? Where are they working? For a drug company, for example? Which drug company?
And once you know their names and affiliations, go ahead and google their names. You might find a detailed bio, areas of research, or other info that might give you a little more insight into who they are.
Here’s another very important question to ask.
Who Paid for the Study?
That’s right. Who paid for it? And what, if any, financial disclosures did the authors make?
By now many of us are acutely aware that the sugar industry funded studies on fat and health. Is it any surprise that those studies reported that fat was the enemy?
As of 1999 the FDA has required that clinical investigators disclose any financial relationships they may have. That’s to ensure that any data submitted isn’t affected by money.
But not all studies are submitted to the FDA. So where can you find the financial disclosures?
Sometimes financial disclosures are included in the author information section, and they’re easily found in the summary of a paper.
But not always.
Sometimes the financial disclosures will all be in a section called, of all things, Financial Disclosures. But this section isn’t always released with a summary, so you might have to dig deeper.
If you can access the full publication (sometimes they’re free), you should be able to find the financial disclosures somewhere. They might even be in a footnote.
We’re not saying that just because a researcher has a financial relationship of some sort with some entity the research is bad, or wrong, or misleading. We’re just saying, financial disclosures are something to be aware of.
Who funded a study, for example, is one of those somethings.
Because, as it turns out, awareness is everything when it comes to Dry Eye.
Next time we’ll talk about where studies are published, because, as that turns out, not all journals are created equal. Surprised?
So remember, whenever you read a research study, ask yourself these questions. Next time, we’ll add a few more questions to the list.
Reading Between the Drops – 5 of 7 Questions to Ask
- Does the hypothesis make sense?
- How the research was conducted, does that make sense?
- Does the conclusion make sense
- Who are the authors?
- Did the authors make any financial disclosures?
50 Years Ago, Sugar Industry Quietly Paid Scientists To Point Blame At Fat
September 13, 2016, 9:59 AM ET
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