By Steven J. Watson1,Piers Fleming2, Daniel J. Zizzo3
1 Department of Psychology and CREATe, Lancaster University, email@example.com
2 School of Economics and CREATe, University of East Anglia, firstname.lastname@example.org
3 School of Psychology and CREATe, University of East Anglia, email@example.com
After the publication of our review exploring why people download copyrighted materials unlawfully and the impact of those downloads we were invited to contribute to this blog. This work was part of the RCUK Centre for Copyright and New Business Models in the Creative Economy (CREATe) and one of the paper’s key contributions was to introduce a robust method for appraising evidence from the medical sciences. One of the common themes during the debate following the release of the paper was the difference in the types of evidence available in the medical sciences compared to the IP realm. This blog considers these issues with a focus upon the systematic review process.
Science, Evidence and Errors
The power of the scientific method is that it is self-correcting; we develop models of the world and then test these models empirically. However, the consequences of persisting with suboptimal models are greater in some fields than others, for example, in medical science an incorrect consensus can cost lives. A rigorous method was needed to describe the current body of evidence in a way that could challenge and correct widely held beliefs. Systematic review filled that need. Without systematic review human albumin (a blood product), which had been used in the treatment of blood loss and burns for over 50 years, would still be used today but we now know that it is not just ineffective, but dangerous1. This ability to overturn a practice that had been considered routine for half a century and literally save lives is why in medicine the systematic review is widely considered to be the highest quality of evidence available (see Figure 1).