Rigor Mortis: How Sloppy Science Creates Worthless Cures, Crushes Hope, and Wastes Billions

Richard Harris
Basic Books

This book appeared in Advance Copy, a column in which NASW book editor Lynne Lamberg asks NASW authors to tell how they came up with the idea for their book, developed a proposal, found an agent and publisher, funded and conducted research, and put the book together. She also asks what they wish they had known before they began working on their book, what they might do differently the next time, and what tips they can offer aspiring authors. She then edits the A part of that Q&A to produce the author reports you see here. Publication of NASW members’ reports in Advance Copy does not indicate NASW’s endorsement of their books. NASW welcomes your comments, and hopes this column stimulates productive discussions. To join the discussion or submit your book, visit Advance Copy.

An award-winning science journalist pulls the alarm on the dysfunction plaguing scientific research — with lethal consequences for us all

American taxpayers spend $30 billion annually funding biomedical research. By some estimates, half of the results from these studies can't be replicated elsewhere — the science is simply wrong. Often, research institutes and academia emphasize publishing results over getting the right answers, incentivizing poor experimental design, improper methods, and sloppy statistics. Bad science doesn't just hold back medical progress, it can sign the equivalent of a death sentence. How are those with breast cancer helped when the cell on which 900 papers are based turns out not to be a breast cancer cell at all? How effective could a new treatment for ALS be when it failed to cure even the mice it was initially tested on? In Rigor Mortis, award-winning science journalist Richard F. Harris reveals these urgent issues with vivid anecdotes, personal stories, and interviews with the nation's top biomedical researchers. We need to fix our dysfunctional biomedical system — now.