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Home  >  Medical Research Archives  >  Issue 149  > Data-Driven Hypothesis Generation in Clinical Research: What We Learned from a Human Subject Study?
Published in the Medical Research Archives
Feb 2024 Issue

Data-Driven Hypothesis Generation in Clinical Research: What We Learned from a Human Subject Study?

Published on Feb 28, 2024




Hypothesis generation is an early and critical step in any hypothesis-driven clinical research project. Because it is not yet a well-understood cognitive process, the need to improve the process goes unrecognized. Without an impactful hypothesis, the significance of any research project can be questionable, regardless of the rigor or diligence applied in other steps of the study, e.g., study design, data collection, and result analysis. In this perspective article, the authors provide a literature review on the following topics first: scientific thinking, reasoning, medical reasoning, literature-based discovery, and a field study to explore scientific thinking and discovery. Over the years, scientific thinking has shown excellent progress in cognitive science and its applied areas: education, medicine, and biomedical research. However, a review of the literature reveals the lack of original studies on hypothesis generation in clinical research. The authors then summarize their first human participant study exploring data-driven hypothesis generation by clinical researchers in a simulated setting. The results indicate that a secondary data analytical tool, VIADS—a visual interactive analytic tool for filtering, summarizing, and visualizing large health data sets coded with hierarchical terminologies, can shorten the time participants need, on average, to generate a hypothesis and also requires fewer cognitive events to generate each hypothesis. As a counterpoint, this exploration also indicates that the quality ratings of the hypotheses thus generated carry significantly lower ratings for feasibility when applying VIADS. Despite its small scale, the study confirmed the feasibility of conducting a human participant study directly to explore the hypothesis generation process in clinical research. This study provides supporting evidence to conduct a larger-scale study with a specifically designed tool to facilitate the hypothesis-generation process among inexperienced clinical researchers. A larger study could provide generalizable evidence, which in turn can potentially improve clinical research productivity and overall clinical research enterprise.

Author info

Xia Jing, James Cimino, Vimla Patel, Yuchun Zhou, Jay Shubrook, Chang Liu, Sonsoles Lacalle

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