Research parasite?

I have a slightly more relaxed attitude towards the research parasite discussion.  As we all know, a recent NEJM editorial called those who used other researcher’s data research parasites.  The blowback was instant.  Twitter went into its normal self-righteous explosive mode, and a few quick blogposts basically forced the authors into restating their positions.  Not change them, just restate them.

I have seen some really good and sophisticated discussions online, but a point that seems obvious to me hasn’t floated past my reading list.  If you don’t work with other people’s data, then you have no idea how useful it is.  Its like an English department that only writes novels, and never reads another authors.  Until now, the research framework has always been about experimentation and the creation of data.  I know this is a huge overstatement, but look at the heroes: John Snow, The Large Hadron Collider, Einstein.  They create theories, test them against new data, falsify, rinse and repeat.  However, we have moved past a point of data scarcity – data is now abundant.  This is a fundamental, honest to god Popperian paradigm change.   Its not surprising some people who have invested their entire careers playing (and playing well) in a game that has suddenly changed its rules are going be very reactive.

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