Do not believe everything you read: guidelines to detect if a medical article is false

Scientific articles have always seemed exciting to me. When I was a child, my grandparents bought me the magazine 'Scientific American', I don't know why they sold in almost any kiosk. Of course I didn't understand anything, but I was fascinated to know that someone was investigating on the cell, black holes or night vision devices. Later, for professional reasons, I have had to read and write thousands of them.

Today, due to the pandemic produced by COVID, Hundreds of scientific articles circulate through social networks, WhatsApp groups, etc.. The problem is that they are not texts that we are used to reading normally, they are not book chapters, nor are they the same as magazine or newspaper articles. You have to be careful when reading them.

Different levels

They have one own organization and structure. They usually begin with an introduction that details the aspects that you want to investigate. Then there is a section called 'material and methods' which details how the scientific study has been carried out. Later comes the results obtained in the research and discussion, in which the results are usually compared with previously published similar research articles. Finally we find the conclusions.

The false tracheal transplant has reached the ESO books

Scientific journals are not all the same. There are some with more prestige than others. The level of a post is measured by a thing called 'impact'. The journals with the highest impact index are international journals and articles are usually written in English, which is now accepted as an international scientific language. Among the magazines with the highest index stand out: Nature, Science, New England Journal of medicine, Lancet, etc. Logically the better a publication, the more difficult it is to publish a scientific work in it, having to be of a high level, and stricter are the revisions to which it will be subjected.

Various scandals

Another characteristic of scientific articles is that when we send them to a journal, immediately they go through a review process. A number of people, appointed by her and experts in the field, review the work before publication. All of them can ask the authors for explanations about the methodology or the results, request that part of the article be reviewed and rewritten before publication, or even reject it.

Even with all these filters, there have been several scandals. One of the loudest occurred a few years ago. A surgeon named Paolo Macchiarini, now unknown and wanted by Interpol, published in one of the most prestigious magazines that had transplanted an artificial windpipe, which would have been a milestone in medicine since it would have been the first artificial organ implanted in history. In the end his investigation was found to be false. So outrageous was the scandal that the entire steering committee of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, where he worked, had to resign. Urban Lendahl, secretary general of the Nobel Assembly, resigned from his post for this reason and also as secretary general of the committee that awards the Nobel Prize in Medicine each year. Such was the scope of this hoax that a few days ago, in a book on innovation published by a prestigious national bank and even in a biology textbook from third-grade ESO I read about the "successful tracheal transplant performed in Sweden" , something totally false.

COVID hoaxes

Another problem that has existed recently due to the COVID epidemic has been the rush to publish, both from magazines and authors, with the intention of searching new treatments or diagnostic tests that will help control the pandemic. This has implied that, on occasions, they have skipped the usual previous steps of a publication. And subsequently some of them have had to withdraw, It has received much criticism or has been shown to be inaccurate. If you do not see the case of Chloroquine, which has gone from being defended even by Donald Trump, as a COVID treatment, to being practically reviled.

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