Sunday, October 05, 2008

Researchers and Research methods

Lets just start by stating that am a scientist by training and inclination. However lately science and science researchers have been leaving me rather dumb founded. My having an advanced training in statistical analysis and probability only makes it worse. I have read a number of science research results with a lot of shock.

sometime in the '90s . I think early-mid '90s, when i was actively involved in AIDS awareness campaigns, we were one day shocked when one researcher gave us his results pointing out to the fact that the virus' spread was accelerated by consumption of believe it or not , fish. He had very detailed analysis replete with figures and examples. he pointed out the luo, luhya, iteso , and some communities in uganda, malawi, tanzania where HIV was prevalent and whose main dish was fish based. Well i was just dumb founded. but i cant remember how that research went.

then just recently i read again another research where the scientist was trying to explain men's dalliance with prostitutes. his hypothesis and conclusion was that men who frequent prostitutes are actually men with stronger genes. so he said that those men were simply under pressure from the natural law of selection to propagate those superior genes for greater common good of human species survival! He went on to state that if you look around you will see that most prominent men , who he assumed posses some of these superior genes either had multiple sexual partners, wives or concubines and/or also used services of sex workers. He had figures and examples to support that.

Another research revealed that water was not good for your skin after all. guess how it was performed. the researcher took one pair of twins (since they share most of the DNA) one was made not to drink water at all while the other took the recommended water ration of 10 glasses a day. the experiment took one month after which the researcher tested the skins for moisture content. he found out that there was no difference. ok lets not even start with alpha being a non biased estimate of theta!

and late '90s early 2000s, a friend of mine told me of his participation in a study in Kisumu. the study was based in Kisumu's Lumumba dispensary and was financed by Bill-Melinda gates foundation. a group of them were asked to get 'cut' and then continue being sexually active. they were not encouraged to use condoms during the period of the study. however they were to visit the clinic every week for check up during which visit they would get paid 200 shillings allowance. additionally they got free medical care whenever they fell sick. After a few years , just about 6 short years, the study concluded that HIV spread is reduced by 60% through the cut! Raila gave his great support the other day and story goes that men in that region are trooping to the centers for the magical circumcision. Never mind that Africans are the most 'cut' people in the world and is generally leading in infection rates.

ok lets forget about scientists and researchers for a while. This years home expo at the KICC was both very encouraging and revealing. one, that Kenyans though faced with tough times are still very innovative and full of hope. most people were asking a lot about solar systems meaning the energy thing has hit all of us real hard. secondly that most people i met seeking information on home purchase and mortgages were young ladies either in their late 20s or early 30s. Like Moi said last week men be afraid be very afraid!

11 comments:

  1. I agree with you totally about research and researc methods and how correlational studies are passed off as cause-effect studies to the innocent and unsuspecting.

    There are more effective and better ways to fight AIDS than the millions and billions they want to spend on the cut for men.

    It is true that africans being the most circumsised people on earth are the most afflicted. How to their studies explain this?

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  2. Quite a relief to read this. I was beginning to wonder whether I'd been conned at school. Or why our scientists had ganged up to prey on the gullibility of ordinary folk.

    I've been reading the circumcision-for-HIV-protection report by Professors Bailey, Achola and Agot and I'm shocked at how they've played around with figures to conclude that the cut reduces risk of infection by 60%. And how supposedly learned fellows like the Odingas, Olweny, Nyongo and company are quick to unquestioningly accept such findings.

    Then there is the impudent old man from the south with his team who concluded that the Kenya electoral register was "populated by 1.2 million dead voters". Reason? That an 'estimated' 1.7million voting age Kenyans had died since 1997 while only 0.5million deceased voters had been expunged from the register by the ECK in the same period. And he says this was not a Jockey club?!

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  3. @annon, the issue is there is quite some money on this particular campaign.

    @lumiti, i too am confused

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  4. Kudos to BBC for the BIG CAT LIVE broadcast on the web and on TV from Masai Mara. Great job particularly in promoting tourism and conservation.

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  5. @Odegle: The reason why property is overpriced is that those young ladies as u say are ill informed about property.Hence, they pay Ksh 9 million for an apartment when that amount can buy u a nice plot say in Karen that may double in 3 years but i doubt the apt will double to Ksh 18mn any time soon.

    Yes, weak men are afraid but the shrewd ones prepare to harvest from their ignorance.

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  6. @pesatu, i like that pointer. clever one on the land appreciation

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  7. OD yawa!!!whats up with safaricom?

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  8. lol, is it only safaricom? I think the whole market is going down. But its a brilliant time to take position in safaricom. all those refunds, if you buy safcom now, you basically bring down your average cost of purchase. its a good thing

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  9. Me I had brushed aside the 'research' correlating the cut with a lower HIV infection rate as pure cultural imperialism, but then Raila threw his weight behind the whole thing, the rest is history.
    I think if some other researcher comes from abroad and tells us Ugali/Sukuma is bad and macaroni/ cheese good for our health, and a politician speaks up, there would not be a shortage of people heeding the advice.
    Overall; I've learned to take these words with caution: 'data supports' ,'studies indicate', 'research shows'....I've seen someone tweak 'data' to come up with the conclusion they had been instructed to come up with. If numbers don't lie, just lie with numbers.

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