News Two decades of Alzheimer's research may have been based on a fraud

Ken g6

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How much Folding@Home Alzheimer's work was wasted? I don't know, but I suspect it's a significant amount. Maybe all of it. :(

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is caused by the aggregation of relatively small (42 amino acid) proteins, called Abeta peptides.
That's from the F@H website, and I think that's the same substance that was fraudulently implicated in the disease.
 

Skillz

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Feb 14, 2014
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Wow, that's huge. Like, how did that go on for so long before someone noticed?
 

mikeymikec

Lifer
May 19, 2011
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I've read this story elsewhere so forgive me if I haven't 'read it again', but the thing I don't get is that if this is key research then surely its method was repeated by others and found consistent results? Isn't that how the scientific method is less vulnerable to quackery?
 

biodoc

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Dec 29, 2005
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I've read this story elsewhere so forgive me if I haven't 'read it again', but the thing I don't get is that if this is key research then surely its method was repeated by others and found consistent results? Isn't that how the scientific method is less vulnerable to quackery?
Yes, that's normally how it works. Hopefully more information will be published in the coming weeks.
 

StefanR5R

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Dec 10, 2016
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the thing I don't get is that if this is key research then surely its method was repeated by others and found consistent results?
That was one of my first thoughts after reading the article too. But on second thought: It is generally a lot of effort to acquire funds for research. (Many researchers spend a very large part of their time writing applications.) Therefore it's reasonable to assume that rather little independent repetition is actually performed in basic research, if it can't be done very cheaply.
 

mikeymikec

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May 19, 2011
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That was one of my first thoughts after reading the article too. But on second thought: It is generally a lot of effort to acquire funds for research. (Many researchers spend a very large part of their time writing applications.) Therefore it's reasonable to assume that rather little independent repetition is actually performed in basic research, if it can't be done very cheaply.
IANARS (research scientist), but I would have thought costs of research that is largely open-ended (ie. a hypothesis about <game-changing idea of how things work>) would be significantly higher than "we need to double-check that this specific thing is definitely so". Halfway through the first scenario the scientist realises that their first hypothesis wasn't far off but it's more complicated than they thought, for example. The second scenario should be somewhat more akin to following a recipe, IMO.

I would have thought that pharmaceutical companies for example absolutely would want a verification before spending millions on designing a drug based on such research, or for that matter any other scientist looking to expand further on the topic. Otherwise, twenty years of funds down the drain because say one dickhead went on an ego trip. Imagine getting anywhere near human trials based on faked research. The mind boggles.
 

Ken g6

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I've read this story elsewhere so forgive me if I haven't 'read it again', but the thing I don't get is that if this is key research then surely its method was repeated by others and found consistent results? Isn't that how the scientific method is less vulnerable to quackery?
It's a general problem across science. Doubly so in "soft" sciences like biology where it's hard to eliminate variables.
 
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Skillz

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Feb 14, 2014
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IANARS (research scientist), but I would have thought costs of research that is largely open-ended (ie. a hypothesis about <game-changing idea of how things work>) would be significantly higher than "we need to double-check that this specific thing is definitely so". Halfway through the first scenario the scientist realises that their first hypothesis wasn't far off but it's more complicated than they thought, for example. The second scenario should be somewhat more akin to following a recipe, IMO.

I would have thought that pharmaceutical companies for example absolutely would want a verification before spending millions on designing a drug based on such research, or for that matter any other scientist looking to expand further on the topic. Otherwise, twenty years of funds down the drain because say one dickhead went on an ego trip. Imagine getting anywhere near human trials based on faked research. The mind boggles.
Yeah, but not when it's Government grants/money they get for doing the research. So technically, not their money.
 

igor_kavinski

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Best we can hope as an outcome is that the careers of everyone directly involved in knowingly perpetuating this fraud are ruined for good. A fraud indictment would be best.
 
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Skillz

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Best we can hope as an outcome is that the careers of everyone directly involved in knowingly perpetuating this fraud are ruined for good. A fraud indictment would be best.
They'd probably just get a slap on the wrist and a stern verbal warning "Don't do that again!"
 

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