Thursday, March 3, 2016

From the diary of a research parasite

Based on real events.

Day 1.
Decided to do a meta-analysis on a question that needs to be answered before starting a specific project. Looked through reference lists of relevant articles and google scholar for similar articles.

Day 2.
Retrieved all the relevant statistics, drew up a forest plot. Does not look very convincing, with apparent large differences in the results of different labs. 
Need more data to draw conclusions.

Day 3.
Emailed some authors to ask for their raw data. Got one instant reply with a link to the archived raw data and analysis script – highlight of the day!

Day 4.
Scanned all programmes or abstracts of relevant conferences which are posted online, emailed society which organises another relevant conference which does not post past-conference abstracts/programmes online. Emailed all corresponding authors who presented studies addressing my question. Put up a tweet with a request for data.
Now I wait…

Day 5.
No replies.
In the meantime, I turned to another paradigm which is often used to addressed a similar question. Figured out that there are different dependent variables that researchers use across studies despite all using the same paradigm. Noticed that all data is presented in graphs, sometimes with standard error bars. No averages or SDs are reported anywhere. Emailed all corresponding authors to ask for condition means and SDs.

Day 6.
Received four responses: two promise to send the data later, two tell me they don’t have it any more.
Reading some other papers in the meantime.

Day 7.
Got one reply, where the author sent me a corrupted file with their data. No response to follow-up questions about what program that file was created with.

Day 8.
No replies.


Day 14.
No replies.