National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)
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NCCIH Research Blog

Enhancing Scientific Literacy and the Understanding of Clinical Research

June 23, 2016
Shawn Stout
Shawn Stout

Writer/Editor, Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

It’s important for the general public to have knowledge and understanding of basic scientific facts, concepts, and vocabulary related to health. Those who possess such knowledge have the capacity to obtain and understand basic information about scientific research—while recognizing misinformation and excessive claims—to make informed, evidence-based decisions about their health care.

There is also a particular need for an improved understanding of the science of health for those who use complementary and integrative health approaches. Because so many of these approaches are readily available in the marketplace, and so many individuals choose self-care options for their health, NCCIH sits at the crossroads between research and real-world consumer use. And it’s part of our mission to not only inform consumers about the research, but give them the tools to better understand that information and make wise decisions about their health.

One of the scientific priorities outlined in our new 2016 Strategic Plan: Exploring the Science of Complementary and Integrative Health is to explain complex scientific concepts that relate to health research to provide consumers, who are actively seeking health information and are inundated with a plethora of misinformation, with tools for the critical evaluation of evidence so that they can be discerning about what they hear and read and make well-informed and wise decisions about their health. Topics may include concepts of risk, incidence versus prevalence, causation versus correlation, anecdote versus evidence, and others. Materials will equip readers with the ability to read, understand, and critically evaluate a variety of research reports, from commercial advertisements to articles in popular press to articles in high-impact, peer-reviewed scientific journals.

During the coming years, we hope to:

  • Establish a collaboration of partners within and external to the Federal Government committed to enhancing consumers’ understanding of the science of health.
  • Develop and evaluate easy-to-understand materials in a variety of platforms.
  • Promote the use of materials among the general public via direct outreach and targeting influential stakeholders.

We hope that within the next few years, the partnerships we establish and the content we develop will lead to an increased understanding by consumers of biomedical research and more informed, evidence-based decisions about their health.

If you want to learn more about our research priorities, please visit our strategic plan. Let us know if you have thoughts on how to help the public understand the science of health.


Comments are now closed for this post.

I would also hope to get a better understanding of which journals are considered good peer-reviewed and respected journals versus not so much.  Just because something is published doesn’t mean it was good science or even correct information.  I am hoping some insight can be shed on which journals are trustworthy, if this is possible.  Thanks!

I really wish that NCCIH would be more blunt about which “alternative remedies” don’t work. I suggest creating a “junk science” page with a list of remedies (homeopathy, magnets…) that have absolutely no validity beyond placebo. I would also like to see a second tier of remedies (acupuncture…) have been consistently failing tests and are working their way toward the first list. A third tier could be for those treatments which have very limited, specific benefits (chiropractic…) but are often used or claimed to be beneficial far beyond what they can help. This would be very helpful for people wading through your site and exploring options.

It would be nice to see the publishing of peer reviews, as well as the review of peer reviews and scoring system of those reviews to give ranking to the reviewers. This might improve the quality of research generally.

This page last modified June 23, 2016