Yeah, I confess I presented (or had collaborators present) many hundreds of “papers” or “posters” at professional meetings in the fields of medicine, health, psychology, education, aging and probably some I have forgotten.
Finding from these meeting are OFTEN in the news, especially in the Twitter era.
The bottom-line is that most of the findings are professional meetings should not be trusted by the GENERAL PUBLIC for a variety of reasons known to professionals who attend these talks and some of the press who report them (including the press offices of some fairly prestigious universities who promote the work of their faculty in press releases).
Why? Unless the work is by a team of recognized researchers summarizing major research studies of a team or a lifetime of research, my guess is that about 80% or more of what is reported in the press from meetings is either/all of: a) preliminary work too early to report; b) work done by students and reported as a “training exercise;” c) papers presented to promote the careers of students and their mentors without much concern for how the press might overstate the importance of these self-promotions; or d) junk science.
Conferences promote that the papers accepted have passed through peer review. Well, sort of. At most conferences for which I have participated as a reviewer or chair of the program committee with ultimate responsibility for selecting papers from reviewer recommendations, the reviews have generally been more like driving through the take-out window line than stopping at a fine restaurant.
Reviews for many (but not all nor even a majority of) peer-reviewed journals are acceptably thorough, fair, only semi-politically determined, and sometimes ignore long-term friendships. As for the rest, well you “get it.” The fantasy of unbiased, peer-reviewed science that can be trusted by the general public is one “sold” by the academic research industry rather than a fact for either peer-reviewed professional meetings or peer-reviewed journals. It is true, however, that peer-reviewed journal articles are more likely (probably 35%) to be trustworthy, correct, important, and interpretable by the general public.
Remember that the majority of training in research for graduate and health professionals is to permit the professional reader to separate the pearls from the droppings, even in peer-reviewed work.
Here is a mind model (AKA mind map) about why even the most highly-trained research professionals need to be vigilant to poorly designed and executed research studies coming out of peer-reviewed major professional meetings and peer-reviewed journals.
Click on the image to expand it.