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Throughout history, medical research has been made difficult based on the expense of acquiring good research and information. While not perfect, the Internet offers some fundamental advantages over standard medical research techniques: raw numbers. A survey such as the one posted on www.acneresearch.org can acquire data from hundreds of people per day from around the world. During the course of the year, a survey could generate more than 50,000 responses. With this vast amount of information available, it is easier to analyze data and look for theories and trends. Once the trends have been identified, studies can be commissioned using standard scientific methods to verify or disprove the theories put forth by the website.
"We don't see the site as a replacement to modern acne research, simply a way to supplement what today's scientists are doing by providing them with massive amounts of user-generated data and ideas," says website creator John Stevens. "Your typical acne researcher based in Beverly Hills, California is going to see a lot of data based on people with information skewed by the Southern California lifestyle and physical environment. We get to see people from various cultures, latitudes and longitudes. It helps us get a broader overview of the subject at hand."
Using this method of collecting data creates inherent problems, as well. Online data collection on highly targeted websites automatically selects for users who are interested in that issue, usually because they have a problem with it. Most visitors to acneresearch.org are there because they have acne, and therefore any data collected from them is going to be skewed. Nevertheless, information can still be gleaned if the data is analyzed carefully enough. Certain diet baselines from the general population are available, so diet baselines from acne sufferers who submit information can be studied. Additionally, visitors self rate acne, and noticeable differences in lifestyle choices are apparent between those with extreme acne and those with minor cases.
Based in Beverly Hills, California, www.acneresearch.org was founded with a simple purpose: researching acne treatments and making the information available in a free, simple and easy-to-understand format. The website currently offers a list of basic lifestyle recommendations that have shown to improve cases of acne for most people who follow them.