Hypothesis Generator


Is good medical research directed at testing hypotheses? Or is there a competing model of good medical research that sees hypothesis generating research as a valuable end? In an intriguing essay appearing in the August 21, 2009 issue of Cell, Maureen O’Malley and co-authors show how current funding mechanisms at agencies like NIH and NSF center their model of scientific merit around the testing of hypotheses (e.g. does molecule X cause phenomenon Y? does drug A outperform drug B?). However, as the authors (and others) point out, many areas of research are not based on such “tightly bounded spheres of inquiry.” They suggest that a “more complete representation of the iterative, interdisciplinary, and multidimensional relationships between various modes of scientific investigation could improve funding agency guidelines.”

The questions presented by this article have particular relevance for translational clinical research. As I argue in my book, the traditional clinical trial apparatus–and corresponding discourse on research ethics– is overwhelmingly directed towards the type of hypothesis testing typified by the randomized controlled trial. However, many early phase studies involve a large component of hypothesis generating research as well. The challenge for O’Malley et al’s argument– and mine– is

(photo credit: Gouldy99, 2008)


    title = {Hypothesis Generator},
    journal = {STREAM research},
    author = {Jonathan Kimmelman},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2010,
    month = feb,
    day = 9,
    url = {http://www.translationalethics.com/2010/02/09/hypothesis-generator/}


Jonathan Kimmelman. "Hypothesis Generator" Web blog post. STREAM research. 09 Feb 2010. Web. 16 Apr 2021. <http://www.translationalethics.com/2010/02/09/hypothesis-generator/>


Jonathan Kimmelman. (2010, Feb 09). Hypothesis Generator [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.translationalethics.com/2010/02/09/hypothesis-generator/


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