The Secret of Acronyms

I've received some great feedback from my post the other day, on acronyms in medical research.

I soured on the whole field of "research on research" when I learned articles like Stanbrook's weren't just bar-room talk that led to an afternoon browsing pubmed, but rather, institutionalized bodies of research with conferences, grants, endowed chairs, etc.

Don't get me wrong, I love cocktail-party research like this (where would Blogborygmi be, without it?) Papers like Stanbrook's make us think, and keep us mindful of influences. Even if that's all it can accomplish, well, it's something.

But look at some of the output of one of the ART in Medicine authors, Dr. Donald A. Redelmeier. Over the years, he's produced such gems as "Oscar winners live longer than other actors" and "Why cars in the other lane really do go faster."

If you're going to get funding for producing a series of provocative but disconnected pop-science pieces, that are fun to talk about but hard to act on, you ought to eliminate the middle man and work directly for NPR.

But I don't mean to single out Dr. Redelmeier, who in addition to his occasional cocktail diversions, has a distinguished career as an investigator. In fact, he was one of the authors on an influential CHAMPS study (not the same Avonex / MS study a commenter mentioned, but hey, even six-letter acronyms need to be reused).

Is Redelmeier cynically manipulating doctors with his catchy titles? Or is he just one of those "exemplary investigators" who "generate both clever acronyms and important research" ? I'm inclined to say the latter, but I wish he had fully disclosed his ties to the acronym industry. Maybe he missed those talks on conflict-of-interest at the last conference.