How does a "layperson" grab the attention of research scientists?
January 3, 2013 6:42 AM Subscribe
How does my friend get his prostate cancer research into the hands of the relevant researchers?
posted by unlaced to science & nature (36 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Over the past year, my friend (an electrical engineer by day, a science geek by night), has completed a thorough review of the scientific literature on prostate cancer, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome (CP/CPPS) and a preliminary laboratory investigation which have led him to conclude that there is a yet-to-be-identified fungal cause for these three diseases. He has collated over two dozen pieces of diverse evidence confirming this link. He is now trying to get the attention of the research community. As a research scientist (although in a different field) I have been helping him with this (as well as reviewing his work and manuscript) and whilst he has had some success in contacting high level researchers in the field, it is not enough. In his words “I pushed this forward because I felt a moral obligation. Had I decided to not publish, I’m convinced that other researchers would have reached the same conclusions within the next ten years. Such a delay would have resulted in more than a million preventable deaths.” He is inspired by the story of Dr Barry Marshall, the researcher who convincingly linked the bacterium Helicobacter pylori to stomach ulcers and who shared the Nobel Prize in 2005. It took seven years before anyone attempted to confirm Dr Marshall’s findings, resulting in over a hundred thousand preventable deaths.
List of things that he has tried
1. Publish in peer reviewed journal: the manuscript was accepted for review in one journal, but rejected outright by a single reviewer; seven other journals did not accept the manuscript for review.
2. Self-published a book summarizing his research (PubMed declined to add the book to its index, however it is indexed in Google Scholar. For those that are interested, a link to the book’s website is in my profile)
3. He mailed 113 printed copies of the book to:
a) Prostate disease researchers: reply rate low, no replies from important researchers.
b) Nature, Science, The Economist book review editors: no reply.
c) The Economist, NYT, WSJ, LA Times, Washington Post, USA Today Health/Science editors: one negative reply (subject too specific for readers), no others.
4. Met a well known prostate disease researcher for three hours. The researcher did not find anything wrong with the research but remained very skeptical; this researcher is currently looking for causative bacteria, as are most prostate disease researchers.
5. Contacted lead researcher at NIH/NIDDK: received a reply but was asked no follow-up questions.
List of things he has considered
1. Present these results at a prostate cancer/urology conference.
2. Hire leading prostate cancer researchers as consultants to comment on this work.
3. Buy publicity in Nature, Science, cancer/urology journals, print media, Google Adwords.
4. Continue trying to have print media and/or blogosphere cover this, hoping that it makes its way to many researchers (it appears that it was a National Enquirer article that stimulated interest in Dr Marshall’s work on H. pylori)
I am asking this question in order to get more ideas about what we could be doing to try and effectively reach out to researchers and have them consider this idea.
We are in Canada, but please don't restrict answers based on geography or finances.