Spin in health science research

Þórarinn Sveinsson, 29. September, 2021

Recently, several scientific papers within health sciences have been published that take a look at systematic reviews, in regards to spin in abstracts. Spin is when authors write claims or conclusions that are not fully supported by the presented or cited data. Various types of spin have been identified or in total 39 types, which there of 21 appears in abstracts (Yavchitz et al., 2016). These various types can be categorized into three main categories: 1) misleading reporting; 2) misleading interpretation; and 3) inappropriate extrapolation. In other words, this refers to, intentional or nonintentional, misrepresentations which can lead to misinterpretation of research results, or that readers are misled by deceptive presentations. It should be mentioned that the seriousness of a spin can be diverse. It can be from being relatively harmless, to be considered almost as a serious falsification of results. The results from these papers, reviews of systematic reviews, are unequivocal, depending on the discipline under scrutiny. They can be from being relatively infrequent, or around or under in 10% of the systematic reviews (Faulkner et al., 2021; Ottwell et al., 2021), to be found in up to 80% of reviews (Nascimento et al., 2020). Laymen, media, and especially clinical health professionals, use systematic reviews and often only read the abstracts, uncritically. Therefore, it must be considered at least very worrying, when the frequency of spin is this high. It is thus important to oppose this and make the requirement that authors of systematic reviews are accurate in the rhetoric they use in scientific writings. Actually, it can be considered very likely that spin is not less frequent in original research papers (Chellamuthu et al., 2021) and this should also apply to everybody that is involved in writing scientific papers. Not least, this underlines the importance to be very critical of all scientific papers and news of research results.

 

Chellamuthu, G., Muthu, S., Damodaran, U. K., & Rangabashyam, R. (2021). "Only 50% of randomized trials have high level of confidence in arthroscopy and sports medicine"-a spin-based assessment [Article]. Knee Surgery Sports Traumatology Arthroscopy, 29(9), 2789-2798. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00167-021-06614-8

Faulkner, J. J., Polson, C., Dodd, A. H., Ottwell, R., Arthur, W., Neff, J., Chronister, J., Hartwell, M., Wright, D. N., & Vassar, M. (2021). Evaluation of spin in the abstracts of systematic reviews and meta-analyses focused on the treatment of obesity [Article]. Obesity, 29(8), 1285-1293. https://doi.org/10.1002/oby.23192

Nascimento, D. P., Gonzalez, G. Z., Araujo, A. C., Moseley, A. M., Maher, C. G., & Costa, L. O. P. (2020). Eight in Every 10 Abstracts of Low Back Pain Systematic Reviews Presented Spin and Inconsistencies With the Full Text: An Analysis of 66 Systematic Reviews [Review]. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 50(1), 17-+. https://doi.org/10.2519/jospt.2020.8962

Ottwell, R., Esmond, L., Rea, W., Hartwell, M., Som, M., Harris, R., Miao, Z. Q., Zhu, L., Arthur, W., Brachtenbach, T., Wright, D. N., & Vassar, M. (2021). Spin infrequently occurs in abstracts of systematic reviews for the pharmacological treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus [Article]. Diabetic Medicine, 38(10), 8, Article e14653. https://doi.org/10.1111/dme.14653

Yavchitz, A., Ravaud, P., Altman, D. G., Moher, D., Hrobjartsson, A., Lasserson, T., & Boutron, I. (2016). A new classification of spin in systematic reviews and meta-analyses was developed and ranked according to the severity [Review]. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 75, 56-65. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclinepi.2016.01.020Recently, several scientific papers within health sciences have been published that take a look at systematic reviews, in regards to spin in abstracts. Spin is when authors write claims or conclusions that are not fully supported by the presented or cited data. Various types of spin have been identified or in total 39 types, which there of 21 appears in abstracts (Yavchitz et al., 2016). These various types can be categorized into three main categories: 1) misleading reporting; 2) misleading interpretation; and 3) inappropriate extrapolation. In other words, this refers to, intentional or nonintentional, misrepresentations which can lead to misinterpretation of research results, or that readers are misled by deceptive presentations. It should be mentioned that the seriousness of a spin can be diverse. It can be from being relatively harmless, to be considered almost as a serious falsification of results. The results from these papers, reviews of systematic reviews, are unequivocal, depending on the discipline under scrutiny. They can be from being relatively infrequent, or around or under in 10% of the systematic reviews (Faulkner et al., 2021; Ottwell et al., 2021), to be found in up to 80% of reviews (Nascimento et al., 2020). Laymen, media, and especially clinical health professionals, use systematic reviews and often only read the abstracts, uncritically. Therefore, it must be considered at least very worrying, when the frequency of spin is this high. It is thus important to oppose this and make the requirement that authors of systematic reviews are accurate in the rhetoric they use in scientific writings. Actually, it can be considered very likely that spin is not less frequent in original research papers (Chellamuthu et al., 2021) and this should also apply to everybody that is involved in writing scientific papers. Not least, this underlines the importance to be very critical of all scientific papers and news of research results.

 

Chellamuthu, G., Muthu, S., Damodaran, U. K., & Rangabashyam, R. (2021). "Only 50% of randomized trials have high level of confidence in arthroscopy and sports medicine"-a spin-based assessment [Article]. Knee Surgery Sports Traumatology Arthroscopy, 29(9), 2789-2798. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00167-021-06614-8

Faulkner, J. J., Polson, C., Dodd, A. H., Ottwell, R., Arthur, W., Neff, J., Chronister, J., Hartwell, M., Wright, D. N., & Vassar, M. (2021). Evaluation of spin in the abstracts of systematic reviews and meta-analyses focused on the treatment of obesity [Article]. Obesity, 29(8), 1285-1293. https://doi.org/10.1002/oby.23192

Nascimento, D. P., Gonzalez, G. Z., Araujo, A. C., Moseley, A. M., Maher, C. G., & Costa, L. O. P. (2020). Eight in Every 10 Abstracts of Low Back Pain Systematic Reviews Presented Spin and Inconsistencies With the Full Text: An Analysis of 66 Systematic Reviews [Review]. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 50(1), 17-+. https://doi.org/10.2519/jospt.2020.8962

Ottwell, R., Esmond, L., Rea, W., Hartwell, M., Som, M., Harris, R., Miao, Z. Q., Zhu, L., Arthur, W., Brachtenbach, T., Wright, D. N., & Vassar, M. (2021). Spin infrequently occurs in abstracts of systematic reviews for the pharmacological treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus [Article]. Diabetic Medicine, 38(10), 8, Article e14653. https://doi.org/10.1111/dme.14653

Yavchitz, A., Ravaud, P., Altman, D. G., Moher, D., Hrobjartsson, A., Lasserson, T., & Boutron, I. (2016). A new classification of spin in systematic reviews and meta-analyses was developed and ranked according to the severity [Review]. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 75, 56-65. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclinepi.2016.01.020

(Íslenska) AUGLÝSING EFTIR ÞÁTTTAKENDUM

Þórarinn Sveinsson, 3. August, 2021

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