Book details

Rigor Mortis

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

By Richard Harris

  • ISBN13: 9780465097906
  • Pub Date: 04/04/2017 | Price: $$28.00 / $/ $36.50 CAN CAN
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Trim: 5.88 x 8.63 Inches | 288 Pages
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About the Book

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.

About the Author

Richard Harris is one of the nation's most-celebrated science journalists, covering science, medicine, and the environment for twenty-nine years for NPR, and the three-time winner of the AAAS Science Journalism Award. He lives in Washington, DC.


"Just as 'post-truth' was selected as the word of the year in 2016 for its political connotations, Richard Harris masterfully shows how this pertains to science, too. Rigor Mortis is a compelling, sobering, and important account of bad biomedical research, and the pressing need to fix a broken culture."
-Eric Topol, Director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute and author of The Patient Will See You Now

"Science remains the best way to build knowledge and improve health, but as Richard Harris reminds us in Rigor Mortis, it is also carried out by humans subject to 'publish or perish' and other perverse incentives. Tapping into these tensions, Harris deftly weaves gripping tales of sleuthing with possible paths out of what some call a crisis. Read this book if you want to see how biomedical research is reviving itself."
-Ivan Oransky, Co-Founder of Retraction Watch and Distinguished Writer In Residence at New York University

"Richard Harris's elegant and compelling dissection of scientific research is must-reading for anyone seeking to understand today's troubled research enterprise-and how to save it."
-Deborah Blum, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Director of the Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT

"Richard Harris has written an essential guide to how scientific research may arrive at the wrong conclusions. From the 235 ways that scientists can fool themselves to the misuse of statistics and the persistence of unsound research methods, Harris outlines the problems underlying the so-called 'reproducibility crisis' in biomedical research and introduces readers to the people working on solutions."
-Christie Aschwanden, lead science writer for FiveThirtyEight and health columnist for the Washington Post