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Evidence quality in intellectual property research: A comparison with the medical sciences

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By Steven J. Watson1,Piers Fleming2, Daniel J. Zizzo3

1 Department of Psychology and CREATe, Lancaster University, s.watson3@lancaster.ac.uk
2 School of Economics and CREATe, University of East Anglia, daniel.zizzo@ncl.ac.uk
3 School of Psychology and CREATe, University of East Anglia, p.fleming@uea.ac.uk

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).

systematic-reviews

Figure 1. The pyramid hierarchy of evidence in medicine, with the highest quality evidence for informing action at the top and the less reliable forms of evidence further down the pyramid.

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The song remains the same? – Pop, plagiarism and professional pride

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By Dr Adam Behr, Senior Research Associate at the University of East Anglia’s School of Political, Social and International Studies

Jimmy Page with Robert Plant 2 - Led Zeppelin - 1977

Copyright infringement is back in the mainstream news with high-profile stars Katy Perry and Led Zeppelin both facing accusations of theft. I don’t propose to enter into a forensic examination of the merits of these claims or a scrying exercise regarding their potential success or failure. I bring them up because they point towards a couple of features of production practice that are starting to emerge from research on the CREATe project, ‘Digitisation and the Politics of Copying in Popular Music Culture’ and about which I will say more after laying out some of the context.

Copyright is a key point of concern for the music and publishing industries and often focuses on piracy, particularly with regard to digital distribution (notwithstanding that legal streaming services such as Spotify are disrupting the market for legal downloads and look like they may have a similar effect on the illegal variety). But not all copyright infringements – or otherwise problematic instances of copying – revolve around the circulation of the finished product and this post concerns a type of infringement rooted earlier on in the production chain in terms of its legal visibility – during the process of creation, rather than the distribution where piracy tends to reside –namely ‘plagiarism’.

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