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Posted on Jun 6, 2008 by Chung-hong Chan

老闆常常當期刊的 Reviewer 。 Reviewer 的角色,是看看研究人員送到期刊的文章,有何問題,有權主宰一篇文章能否刊登於該期刊。他時常叫我先看,寫點 comment 。我每次寫的 comment 都很串爆,因為我的研究每次收到其他人的 comment 都很串爆。但我的 comment 一到老闆的手後,他就改到平平無奇。他每次這樣做我都感到相當失望,因為要寫這些串爆 comment 也需要思索的。要串得來,仍然塞到野入佢袋。我自己都是從其他 Reviewer 串爆的 comment 中成長。雖然這些 Reviewer 是隱姓埋名的。
學術界有一個怪像,就是當樣本數太小,又或者結果是「統計學不明顯」,就會將研究命名為先導研究( pilot study )。我最近 Review 的一篇文就是這樣。我寫了一段 comment ,可是被老闆刪走了。我很不甘心,故此出口內銷,在此刊登。希望同行不要再這樣做,這樣做好七。不單止不能增加研究的 Credibility ,亦不能增加論文被接納的機會。

I wish the word "pilot study" is added to the title is not to cover the small sample and non-significant results in the current trial. (or to satisfy the sample-size-and-significant-results hungry editors) The primary objective of pilot study is not to determine the efficacy of an intervention, e.g. "investigate if there is evidence for the use of [whatever drug] in [whatever condition]...." or "first step to evaluate the efficacy of [whatever drug] in the therapy of [whatever condition]".

Pilot study is conducted to determine the feasibility of the study design. The secondary objective is to find out the practical problems in the study design. However, except the sample size issue was discussed by the authors, I don't think we can learn much from this so-called "pilot study" in the methodological perspective.

Calling a small trial a pilot study is absurd, especially when the authors have no plan to expand the so-called "pilot study" into a full scale study.

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