A modern Desiderius Erasmus – Acceptance speech John ioannidis at Dies Natalis Erasmus University Rotterdam 2015

Last modified: May 21, 2017

By Rikard Juttmann MD PhD – retired coordinator scientific integrity Erasmus MC

 

At November 10, 2015, I visited the 102nd celebration of the dies natalis of Erasmus University Rotterdam. The event was totally dedicated to Erasmus MC, the medical school of the University, because of the upcoming 50th birthday of that institution. [including a lecture by John Ioannidis]

Most of the program might be characterized as a “praise of medicine and medical research”. As an Erasmus MC alumnus, the speech of CEO, Ernst Kuipers, in which he dwelled on the impressive achievements of our medical school, filled me with pride. As a former public health researcher myself, the lecture of the first honorary doctor denominated, the eminent health services researcher Paul Gertler, left me with the pleasant and optimistic feeling, that our research matters and makes a difference.

As far as I am concerned, these feelings of pride and optimism are not undeserved. There is nothing against a bit of laudation now and then, as long as we realize that in any praise there is always an aspect of Erasmian praise of folly. In other words, the whole meeting needed very much a critical counterpoint. This requirement was provided brilliantly by the lecture of the second honorary doctor denominated, John Ioannidis: “Boring discoveries, innovative replications”.

Ioannidis may be considered as one of the most influential but also most controversial scholars of our time. Many people know him from his notorious 2005 publication “Why most published research findings are false”, which is the most-accessed article in the history of the Public Library of Science. It has been accessed more than 1.5 million times and cited more than 1600 times.

In his acceptance speech in Rotterdam Ioannidis presented himself as a dedicated follower of Desiderius Erasmus. In my opinion the similarities between both are indeed striking. Both Erasmus and Ioannidis put inescapable question marks behind the current scientific paradigm of their time. In both cases their criticism was, to say the least, not always accepted with gratitude by professional authorities. Both, however, expressed their critics with so much elegance and tolerance, that they easily survived the academic storms they evoked and fulfilled a more than successful scientific career.

I strongly recommend reading Ioannidis’ lecture to the members of NRIN. You can find the text of this speech in the following link.

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