(Or every field needs a good dose of healthy skepticism!)
In 2013, experts of the emerging human microbiome field gathered at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) campus in Bethesda, Maryland. The NIH-sponsored conference entitled “Human Microbiome Science: Vision for the Future” highlighted both the successes and challenges of the microbiome field. Speakers noted that “A challenge in microbiome research is to move beyond identification of microbiota community structures that correlate with disease states to establishing a causal link between structural changes and the functions of microbiota in disease.” The “hype” of correlation studies, especially ‘hot topic research’ will always remain. Scientists need to be cautious when interpreting their results and presenting results to the public. In a 2014 Nature Comment, William Hanage lists five questions that microbiome researchers should ask when planning an experiment. I think these five questions also serve as a solid framework for readers (that’s us!) when examining microbiome research. I’ve listed the the questions below. For a more detailed read, check out the link to Hanage’s article.
- Can experiments detect differences that matter?
- Does the study show causation or just correlation?
- What is the mechanism?
- How much do experiments reflect reality?
- Could anything else explain the results?
Lastly, I have to share with you this awesome article. Did you know that the microbiome totally caused the financial crisis in 2008!! What??! #Microbiomehype #SEC_NIHworkingtogetheratlast #BewaretheBacoTell
Thanks to NM for sharing, and great job EB representing at the NIH!
Human Microbiome Science: Vision for the Future Report: http://www.microbiomejournal.com/content/2/1/16
Financial Crisis and the Microbiome: http://www.theallium.com/biology/report-human-microbiome-totally-responsible-for-financial-crisis-of-2008/