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Two reasons further research is perpetually needed

 •  • by Paul Ingraham
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Weekly nuggets of pain science news and insight, usually 100-300 words, with the occasional longer post. The blog is the “director’s commentary” on the core content of a library of major articles and books about common painful problems and popular treatments. See the blog archives or updates for the whole site.

“Further Study Is Needed”

xkcd #2268 © by Randall Munroe

There are two specific reasons why the need for more research has become such a cliché:

  1. Science is hard, and the life sciences in particular are extremely thorny. This reason is the obvious and familiar one of the pair, but it is consistently underestimated by most people. We really have no idea how deep most of the rabbit holes even go.

    A favourite example of this is the dizzying depths of the biology of inflammation. After twenty years of experts (including me) smugly explaining that, [ackchyually](, chronic tendinitis isn’t inflamed… now we have some compelling evidence (Dakin et al) that, oops, it is after all. It’s just subtle and complex. Because of course it is. It’s 2020, and we’ve only just confirmed that, yes, there *are* signs of inflammatory biology at the scene of the chronic tendinitis crime. Step two: understand anything about that biology beyond the fact that it exists.

  2. Most research published in the last 20 years is underpowered, sloppy, and never stood a chance of producing useful data — all published anyway, because of perverse publish-or-perish incentives and exploding competition for ever thinner slices of the funding pie. It’s a bad situation.