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How can we know research is reliable?

When there is so much information online, how do we know what to trust? Nine steps to find the facts.

At AbScent, everything we recommend to support you is based on scientific evidence. This is important, because it means that the things we talk about have been tested and reviewed by scientists and are known to be safe.

We explain the process research has to go through, and why research can sometimes take time to turn an idea into advice for patients. 


When scientists want to know something - like the best treatment for people with Covid-19 taste and smell loss  - there are specific steps that they have to take. All research that adds to medical knowledge must be peer reviewed and published so doctors and other scientists know they can rely on the information.

This is an outline of the process that all research goes through before it can be used to make your life better:

  1. The research will start with an idea. Ideally, this idea will have come from working with patients. Research that is done together with patients - co-produced research - is highly prized. 

  2. The next step might involve a survey, which anyone can take regardless of their location. Or it might involve coming into a lab or hospital for some kind of intervention.

  3. Data scientists look at the results, and try to understand what they have found out. 

  4. The research is then written up, often with a group of researchers. People in the group might have different skills. When Chrissi, our founder, participates in research, she acts as the voice of the patients in the group. 

  5. Once written up, the research is submitted to a journal for peer-review. This means that the article is read and judged by that journal’s panel of experts, or 'peers'. These experts are chosen because they know something about the topic in question. The expert peers might come back to the authors and say they disagree with something, or that a certain point needs further work. This part of the research can take a long time. 

  6. While this is going on, sometimes the article is put onto a pre-print server. This means that people can read the information, but it might be found faulty, or not worthy of publication. Some newspapers, for instance, won’t accept information from scientists unless it has passed peer review. 

  7. When the article has been given the thumbs up by the peer reviewers, it can be published.

  8. Sometimes articles are published on the internet and everyone can view them. Sometimes they are behind a paywall, accessible to Universities and other research institutions.

  9. When doctors are making decisions about managing patients, they will only do so on the basis of this kind of research. They can’t use hearsay, or recommend things that haven't been scientifically investigated, such as the “cures” that can be seen on YouTube and TikTok.

AbScent keeps abreast of published research and share anything of interest that can help our community find a better quality of life. We share lay summaries in these blogs, but where available, we will share the whole paper in our research articles section.

July 15, 2021