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Groundhog Day: research without old data and old references

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 February 2022

Barry A. Hong*
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO, USA The Altshuler Center for Education & Research at Metrocare Services, Dallas, TX, USA
David E. Pollio
Affiliation:
The Altshuler Center for Education & Research at Metrocare Services, Dallas, TX, USA Center for Scientific Review, National Institutes of Health, Washington, DC, USA
Dana L. Downs
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO, USA
Daniel W. Coyne
Affiliation:
John T. Milliken Department of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO, USA
Carol S. North
Affiliation:
The Altshuler Center for Education & Research at Metrocare Services, Dallas, TX, USA Department of Psychiatry, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX, USA
*
Author for correspondence: Barry A. Hong, E-mail: hongb@wustl.edu

Abstract

Background

The use of older data and references is becoming increasingly disfavored for publication. A myopic focus on newer research risks losing sight of important research questions already addressed by now-invisible older studies. This creates a ‘Groundhog Day’ effect as illustrated by the 1993 movie of this name in which the protagonist has to relive the same day (Groundhog Day) over and over and over within a world with no memory of it. This article examines the consequences of the recent preference for newer data and references in current publication practices and is intended to stimulate new consideration of the utility of selected older data and references for the advancement of scientific knowledge.

Methods

Examples from the literature are used to exemplify the value of older data and older references. To illustrate the recency of references published in original medical research articles in a selected sample of recent academic medical journals, original research articles were examined in recent issues in selected psychiatry, medicine, and surgery journals.

Results

The literature examined reflected this article's initial assertion that journals are emphasizing the publication of research with newer data and more recent references.

Conclusions

The current valuation of newer data above older data fails to appreciate the fact that new data eventually become old, and that old data were once new. The bias demonstrated in arbitrary policies pertaining to older data and older references can be addressed by instituting comparable treatment of older and newer data and references.

Type
Commentary
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press

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Footnotes

*

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Health and Human Services, or the United States Government.

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