Sunday, March 14, 2010

In the interests of intellectual freedom

According to Stevan Harnad, his comments posted to Phil Davis' blog have not appeared. While blog owners have every right to moderate comments (or not allow comments, as is the policy at OA Librarian), in this case Harnad is an academic expert, a Canada Research Chair, attempting to quite appropriately respond to Phil Davis' critique of his work. If commenting is permitted, Harnad's comments should be commented IN, not out. The primary purpose of this post is to assist with intellectual freedom, a topic that Phil Davis should be familiar with as a librarian.

For the record, while my expertise is not at Harnad's level on this topic, I have read Davis' 2008 study and Alma Swan's synopsis, and I concur with Harnad. I also have posted comments to Phil Davis' blog, on topics on which I have considerable expertise, and they have not appeared.

Harnad's comments, from liblicense:


Thanks for the helpful feedback.

I'm afraid you're mistaken about meta-analysis. It can be a
perfectly appropriate statistical technique for analyzing a large
number of studies, with positive and negative outcomes, varying
in methodological rigor, sample size and effect size. It is a way
of estimating whether or not there is a significant underlying

I think you may be inadvertently mixing up the criteria for (1)
eligibility and comparability for a meta-analysis with the
criteria for (2) a clinical drug trial (for which there rightly
tends to be an insistence on randomized control trials in
biomedical research).

Now I would again like to take the opportunity of receiving this
helpful feedback from you to remind you about some feedback I
have given you repeatedly on your own 2008
study -- the randomized control trial that you suggest has been
the only methodologically sound test of the OA Advantage so far:

You forgot to do a self-selection control condition. That would
be rather like doing a randomized control trial on a drug - to
show that the nonrandom control trials that have reported a
positive benefit for that drug were really just self-selection
artifacts -- but neglecting to include a replication of the
self-selection artifact in your own sample, as a control.

For, you see, if your own sample was too small and/or too brief
(e.g., you didn't administer the drug for as long an interval, or
to as many patients, as the nonrandom studies reporting the
positive effects had done), then your own null effect with a
randomized trial would be just that: a null effect, not a
demonstration that randomizing eliminates the nonrandomized drug
effect. (This is the kind of methodological weakness, for
example, that multiple studies can be weighted for, in a
meta-analysis of positive, negative and null effects.)

[I am responding to your public feedback here, on the liblicense
and SERIALST lists, but not also on your SSP Blog, where you
likewise publicly posted this same feedback (along with other,
rather shriller remarks) because I am assuming
that you will again decline to post my response on your blog, as
you did the previous time that you publicly posted your feedback
on my work both there and elsewhere -
refusing my response on your blog on the grounds that it had
already been publicly posted elsewhere!...]

- Stevan Harnad

PS The idea of doing a meta-analysis came from me, not from Dr.

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