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Ask Slashdot: Why Does Science Appear To Be Getting Things Increasingly Wrong? 320

azaris writes: Recent revelations of heavily policy-driven or even falsified science have raised concern in the general public, but especially in the scientific community itself. It's not purely a question of political or commercial interference either (as is often claimed when it comes to e.g. climate research) — scientists themselves are increasingly incentivized to game the system for improved career prospects, more funding, or simply because they perceive everyone else to do it, too. Even discounting outright fraud or manipulation of data, the widespread use of methodologies known to be invalid plagues many fields and is leading to an increasing inability to reproduce recent findings (the so-called crisis of reproducibility) that puts the very basis of our reliance on scientific research results at risk. Of course, one could claim that science is by nature self-correcting, but the problem appears to be getting worse before it gets better.

Is it time for more scientists to speak out openly about raising the level of transparency and honesty in their field?
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Ask Slashdot: Why Does Science Appear To Be Getting Things Increasingly Wrong?

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  • They dont; (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 13, 2015 @05:07PM (#49253077)

    Stop watching idiots.

    • Incentives (Score:5, Interesting)

      by duckintheface ( 710137 ) on Friday March 13, 2015 @06:30PM (#49253613)

      I've done biomedical research in the US and Sweden. The incentive structure is totally different. Swedish scientiests take baby steps and reproduce results repeatedly before moving on. American scientists are all trying to win the Nobel prize. They shoot for the big result and nobody gets a grant in the US for repeating results of someone else. Is it a surprise that people respond to the incentives before them?

      • Re:Incentives (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Friday March 13, 2015 @07:27PM (#49253953)

        Swedish scientiests take baby steps and reproduce results repeatedly before moving on. American scientists are all trying to win the Nobel prize.

        On a per capita basis, Sweden has three times [] as many Nobel Prizes as America. So the American strategy doesn't appear to be very successful. Or maybe the Swedes have a home team advantage.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I have spent nearly 20 years at several different American universities doing biomedical research and your experience is very different from mine. I've repeated other people's work. It was never thought to be unusual because it isn't. Science is incremental, constantly building the new upon the old, including papers that win Nobels. The methods sections of any paper are full of repeating work, and the discussion section of any paper is full of comparing the new work to the old. It doesn't matter what c
        • Re:Incentives (Score:5, Interesting)

          by duckintheface ( 710137 ) on Friday March 13, 2015 @09:35PM (#49254411)

          Then you are modest in giving yourself a 0 score. Of course I did occasionally repeat work (or parts of work) while doing research in the US. But I never saw anyone in the US repeat an entire experimental protocol. In Sweden this was common, and it did not affect your ability to get funding. Also, in Sweden negative results were accorded the same standing as postive ones. In the US it was common to see researchers come up with a wild idea and give it a try, skipping many intermediate steps. In Sweden, all those intermediate steps would be exhuastively evaluated before moving on the the next level. I worked with several folks in the US who were publishing in Science Magazine and they were absolutely going for a Nobel.

          I think the difference has to do with the social standing and security felt by Swedish University professors. They have guaranteed funding unless they really screw up. In the US you may have academic tenure but if you lose your funding from outside sources, you are not going to keep your labs. One can argue about which is the better system. Most American labs I saw were more productive in the sense of the data they turned out. But I would trust the work done in a Swedish lab over that done in an American lab/... as a general rule.

      • You're absolutely right about incentives and grant money.

        How you tied this to the Nobel Prize is beyond me, so let's drop that.

        The incentives are all about grant money and outside (the campus) capital. As a result, the science takes a back seat to market economics, market-ing (both of corporate partners and of academic institutions themselves, which increasingly operate in a competitive marketplace for enrollments), management concerns, investors, etc.

        This incentive structure is increasingly becoming the no

    • Science is suppose to get things wrong. It is part of the process. The problem is the media keeps on touting the current hypothesis as the newest theory. So the average slob thinks this is some new breakthrew while it is just an idea to test out.
      Because of this poor media coverage it makes the impression that the process is so flawed.

      Now the problem is in how science is funded, means the scientist need to market their idea to people with money. Now these guys want to the science not marketing. So they do t

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 13, 2015 @05:08PM (#49253083)

    I think we are just beginning, more and more, to recognize the inherent limitations of terms like 'scientist'. Media outlets have to struggle to be the most clicked-on, first to break every story no matter how poorly researched or even conceived. The average citizen has access to resources that can verify the accuracy of almost anything. Unfortunately this tends to get lost among the increasingly noisy media. It also requires discipline, patience, and focus to actually apply such methods to anything. Most of the time we just take what we hear at face value - this has always been the way of things. Now, however, we feel somehow betrayed by our own conceptions when they turn out to be wrong.

  • Problem is... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    ... short term thinking. The mindset of our era is corporate heads wanting quick turn around for profit. This is what Harper did to canada, he re-oriented the science division towards the oil sands "supporting industry" any serious research that requires any length or depth gets cut.

    • Re:Problem is... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Friday March 13, 2015 @06:25PM (#49253583)

      Problem is... .. short term thinking. The mindset of our era is corporate heads wanting quick turn around for profit. This is what Harper did to canada, he re-oriented the science division towards the oil sands "supporting industry" any serious research that requires any length or depth gets cut.

      I agree that is "a" problem, but not THE problem. OP pretty much states it, even though stated more in the form of speculation or a question. The problem is a combination of "corporate capture", and corporate short-term thinking.

      Slate TFA states it pretty much up-front in their conclusion: the FDA has been commercial-captured. This has been evident for decades but Congress has been unwilling to do anything about it. Because, let's face it: much of Congress has been commercial-captured, too. Not all of it, but some of it for sure.

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        It is the prime example of the problem. Australia, did much the same with all research being required to generate a profit and Conservative political parties. As such all research that was for the public good but that could only be given away free was cut off. The problem is corporate psychopathic greed entering into science as other areas have already been exploited and there is a massive drive to do to universities and science, to match what was done to news organisations and pharmaceutical corporations,

  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Friday March 13, 2015 @05:11PM (#49253107) Journal
    Once you get past the hype, the media stories, the click bait; and learn how to actually read scientific papers, they seem about as accurate as they've ever been. The second half of this paper discusses the difficulties [], and that was decades ago.

    Also worth recognizing that science papers are not an attempt to define absolute truth, and people who use it as such (saying, "this paper says X, therefore X is true") are likely to be disappointed. Science papers are essentially correspondence between scientists, saying "hey, look what I did and how it turned out." It's a form of dialectic, and a good one, but not every paper will be equally good, or even true......nor is it intended to be.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The real issue is science journalism.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        Journalists are people who flunked calculus, and then couldn't even get into the English department. They get their revenge on the world by going to J-school and then becoming 'science journalists.'

        No, you can't do your masters thesis on those leaflets they pass out on the mall.

    • by the gnat ( 153162 ) on Friday March 13, 2015 @05:29PM (#49253231)

      I think there are two other related issues at play here:

      1. There has been a proliferation of relatively shoddy low-impact papers. Thanks to the Internet and the large scientific community, many of these are quickly flagged, but it's still a drag. Part of the reason for this is that the developed world (and more recently, aspiring nations) has been over-training scientists for a few decades, and a PhD is typically an essential requirement for most decent careers - which creates a big incentive to publish no matter how crappy the results.

      2. Because of our f***ed-up incentive system, there is an additional huge incentive to publish in ultra-selective high-profile journals, which means the result has to be sufficiently exciting (and "citation bait"). Naturally, this leads people to either cheat or (more often) be sloppy and careless. These failures attract the most attention for obvious reasons.

      Basically it's a natural side effect of the "democratization" of science. When basic research was just a gentleman's club centered at a relatively few elite institutions, there was much less incentive to game the system.

      • by Trepidity ( 597 )

        I'm not sure #1 has changed in terms of proportion of papers, though there are certainly more total papers. If you read through 19th-century scientific journals and conference reports, there is a lot of really mediocre stuff, not only mediocre in retrospect but just kind of filler at any time. Someone saw a thing and wrote it up and well here it is hope this helps. And then writes in again a few months later with an update on how it's going, no results but promising some results later. The proportion of pap

        • by the gnat ( 153162 ) on Friday March 13, 2015 @05:45PM (#49253321)

          To clarify: I don't necessarily think the proportion has changed. But the absolute quantity of bad papers has certainly increased. I'm also wondering whether the incidence of truly incompetent work has gone up due to lowered standards; the average PhD student isn't a towering intellectual giant. (Hell, even I graduated.)

          • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Friday March 13, 2015 @06:15PM (#49253521) Journal

            PhD student isn't a towering intellectual giant. (Hell, even I graduated.)

            "The closer I got to PhD, the less I respected PhDs."

            • by the gnat ( 153162 ) on Friday March 13, 2015 @06:26PM (#49253587)

              Definitely true, although having had the misfortune to sit through and then TA classes full of pre-meds, I now respect MDs even less.

              • by chihowa ( 366380 )

                One of my professors said that he wanted a bracelet with all of his pre-med students' names on it and instructions to never let any of them treat him. After a few semesters of TAing them, I have to agree!

      • by scamper_22 ( 1073470 ) on Friday March 13, 2015 @11:14PM (#49254747)

        I'll add to this.

        We have to separate 'science' from 'scientists' in a similar way you have to separate any practice from its practitioners.

        Science is a really good methodology to get at the *truth* mainly by testing your hypothesis (scientific method).

        In the end though, scientists are just people, as in any other group. They can and will be influenced by pride, status, money, power, any other group of people.

        It's a tough line of argument where people end up talking about 'true science'

        It's not just scientific journals, people will sometimes dismiss entire areas of 'science', especially in the social sciences/economics. Yet, from the outside perspective, its the same voices of experts touting studies and reports to get at the *truth*.

        In the end though from a social perspective, how can we guarantee scientists adhere to the scientific method and search for truth, any more than catholic priests adhere to their creed (while raping little children).

        I don't they will as scientists are just people. Put more power, money, politics, institutions under the scientific banner, and I think human behavior will take precedence over the adherence to the scientific theory.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Science needs to be vilified in the press in order to maintain a complaint following. We are seeing fanaticism (religious, political, economic, etc.) desperately drawing every breath to keep itself in the forefront against all odds.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Remember when you learned the scientific method in primary school? (assuming that hasn't been dropped)

      Reproducing results is a large element of science. Our media loves spiting out garbage as soon as it is produced. (Before it is independently re-tested)

      I tend to view the first article of something as a "hmm, curious." If adopting it is (or seems to have) a minimal negative impact (like isolated stereographic input to treat lazy eye), I might try it. Otherwise I will see if I still hear about it 5 years lat

      • by azaris ( 699901 )
        Funding is moving away from small, easily reproducible studies towards huge, billion dollar projects that can only be performed in one or two highly specialized research institutes. Even if you have the resources to replicate any study you want, some questions require following through an experiment for decades (pitch drop experiment []), which limits reproducibility.
    • by myrdos2 ( 989497 )

      A disturbing trend I've seen is the tendency for a conference or publication to ask the author's recommendation for suitable people to peer review the paper! This largely defeats the purpose of the review, since the author can cherry pick reviewers he knows will vote to accept. Say, a colleague or associate. I don't think the "cherry picking" isn't even conscious most of the time. I mean, who else would you recommend? Someone you don't know?

      The justification given by the publisher is that they need someone

      • by the gnat ( 153162 ) on Friday March 13, 2015 @05:54PM (#49253387)

        Someone (I forget where) once claimed that editors are disinclined to actually use these suggestions - instead, they'll remember the names for the next time they receive a manuscript on a similar topic from a different group. I doubt most scientists would complain if these recommendations disappeared entirely. What we're usually much more worried about, instead, is that the editor will send our paper to our arch-enemy who constantly bad-mouths us at meetings and is working on a similar project. (Or a notorious pedant who will dismiss any research that doesn't conform to his ideas about theory.)

    • There might be some issues with corporate-funded science (e.g. medical trials), but yeah, science is doing just fine overall. The ones who get things wrong all the time are journalists (there are a few good ones, but there are a plethora of horrible science journalists).
    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by NoMaster ( 142776 )

      Once you get past the hype, the media stories, the click bait; and learn how to actually read scientific papers, they seem about as accurate as they've ever been.


      /. articles like this one are basically stalking horse stooges - a paragraph of well-known minor concerns that together add up & appear to be 'truthy' evidence of a major problem, and an 'honest' question tacked onto the end.

      The whole point is to sow FUD...

      • It could be the person who asked the question is just now becoming aware of the fact that science is not perfect? It is a great way to increase our knowledge, but not everything a scienctist says is gospel?
  • by Meshach ( 578918 ) on Friday March 13, 2015 @05:12PM (#49253111)
    Companies and politicians are more interested in looking good and in getting the snazzy release announcement / photo op then releasing accurate, neutral data to the public. An announcement will be heavily promoted / advertised and people will remember those ads more then they will remember the tiny retraction issues three weeks later.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 13, 2015 @05:14PM (#49253121)

    There are more scientists today at work than at any other time in the past. They produce better results than at any time in the past. Better tools and education have improved things to the human race in general and scientists in particular.

    So if we assume that scientists are just as likely as a percentage to falsify work, we can safely assume that with more scientists today at work, and the good results better than previous results, there are more errors today and they appear to be more obvious.

    • by The Real Dr John ( 716876 ) on Friday March 13, 2015 @05:34PM (#49253259) Homepage

      As a publishing scientist, I can completely agree with your assessment. If you have followed anything in science recently, especially the life sciences, then you'll know that we are doing things routinely that were impossible just 10 to 15 years ago, with excellent reliability and reproducibility. Take whole genome sequencing as just one of many examples. There is a lot more science being done around the world now, and a lot more bad science along with it. I don't know of studies that have looked at trends on this, but my guess is that the percentage of bad science probably has not changed too much. But countries like China have entered basic research in a big way, and that means lots more scientists working at more projects. However, the squeeze on scientific funding in places like the US, which has become increasingly difficult to obtain even for very worthwhile projects, has certainly increased pressure on scientists, with negative results in terms of quality and reliability.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    1. difficulty: problems are getting harder to solve
    2. error margin: and the demand for correctness is increasing
    3. everyone's a scientist: but most are not really. there's a lot of charlatans out there
    4. substitution: tons of stuff we thought we knew turned out to be wrong, because now we think we now better
    5. mass: there's just so much "information" out there, there's bound the be something wrong. and the more there is the more will be wrong.

    really... most things are just self evident.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 13, 2015 @05:15PM (#49253131)
    The increasingly vocal minority promoting no-holds-barred free market capitalism creates a race to the bottom in many fields - it's not only limited to employment, banking, etc. It started years ago with the 'publish or perish' mentality and has progressed now to where various political factions essentially 'buy off' people with college degrees (I won't call them scientists) to get up in front of people and publicly throw support behind their positions, often using sketchy numbers or questionable methods of data analysis. These days everything has to have a profit motive, and science is no different. People have learned that the best way to argue with someone who comes armed with solid facts is to invent your own facts and make them difficult or impossible to prove, hence confusing the hell out of everyone until nobody cares anymore.
    • by Required Snark ( 1702878 ) on Friday March 13, 2015 @07:26PM (#49253949)
      If I had mod points I would mod you up.

      This is exactly what happened in Japan at the Riken Institute []. A lead researcher made claimed to make a fantastic breakthrough, but it was unreproducible. Clearly the pressure to be a winner overwhelmed good scientific practice.

      The FDA had to crack down on Big Pharma, because they were not reporting negative results from clinical tests. If you can pick and choose so that only positive outcomes are used, then it's as bad as not doing any tests at all. The motive was greed, and the public be damned.

      The phrase "Publish or Perish" sums up the pressure that results in this behavior. It's exactly the same as predatory capitalism; if you can make money, then nothing else matters, even killing people.

    • by khallow ( 566160 )
      If this were true, then we would see some flavor of actual free market capitalism in "many" fields. What we see in practice is that a lot of fields simply have little to no private funding and are instead funded mostly by public sources, like climate research or astronomy.

      and has progressed now to where various political factions essentially 'buy off' people with college degrees (I won't call them scientists) to get up in front of people and publicly throw support behind their positions

      Let's discuss these factions for a bit. There're obvious capital factions like Big Oil or tobacco companies. But then there're environmentalist and labor-oriented NGOs. There're political parties and government bureaucracies. There're reli

  • 11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts []

    The rest of the steps are in place so the shit is gonna hit the fan soon.

  • I'm just being nit-picky, but I believe you should be asking about scientists, or the scientific community, not science itself.
    • by gtall ( 79522 )

      I agree. "Science" isn't one giant blob of the black arts. And it isn't a black art. Many believe so but for different reasons.

      As someone above mentioned, there are no more scientists working than ever before. Any pop. of humans will have its proportion of hucksters. Given the 24 hour news cycle, new organizations willing to generate news, everyone and their brother's dog with a web site thinking their opinion is somehow information, etc., and it would appear from the outside that science is being drowned b

      • by azaris ( 699901 )
        It is not just bad scientists or media/politicians using scientists for their own purposes. It is also good scientists, working on high-level topics, deciding to cut corners/falsify results to announce major results that turn out to be false to get their paper out first.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 13, 2015 @05:23PM (#49253185)

    The post attempts to criticize scientists using assumptions not scientifically examined themselves. "Increasing inability," "appears to be," "as is often claimed," "increasingly incentivized," "widespread." Such terms don't even pass muster on Wikipedia, let alone actual scientific journals.

    Really? Show me the data. Like a scientist. Is the number of retracted articles increasing in a statistically significant way? Is there a statistically significant change in the types of funding incentives? What is the level at which you call something "widespread?" Prove to me that science itself is actually getting things "wrong" at any rate higher than before. But if you want to attack science, you need to do it on their terms.

    Phrasing the question in this way shows a fundamental misunderstanding of how science works. It assumes a narrative and then rapid-links a bunch of anecdotes before asking a direct question about the character of an entire profession.

  • by Ignacio ( 1465 )

    If it was always getting things right then it would be prophecy, not science. Science is the art of getting things wrong in order to figure out what's correct.

    • In theory, practice in theory are the same. In practice, they aren't. To the point, real science is hard. Damn hard, and always has been. This isn't new. If this were new, we'd be living for a thousand years and taking vacations beyond the far side of the observable universe.

      Even things that seem obvious can sometimes break down completely when put in the crucible. And things that you thought before broke down may really not have. No less of an intellectual powerhouse than Feynman famously said that you a
  • Science is fine... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fhic ( 214533 ) on Friday March 13, 2015 @05:25PM (#49253207)

    ... it's the media messing things up. The endless race to publish something, anything, leads to headlines like "XYZ is bad for you!" Then you read the actual study, and it turns out the "reporter" is talking about a minor study on a different topic that had a mere handful of study participants. Of course, no effort is made to actually interview the study authors, or "the authors did not respond to our request for an interview." I find that Gawker and HuffPo are among the worst offenders.

    • Science is not magic.mscience is not a stone tablet from a deity. A single paper is simply on data point of a groups best effort to indentify an interesting phenomenon. The work just redone by others, hammered, destroyed, rebuilt, and then used to do. Something interesting. Bad science, such was probably done with Bromian motion, is not always bad results. Science education, more than teaching factoids, should be teaching this so that there would not be this confusion. Medical research is problematic be
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 13, 2015 @05:26PM (#49253213)

    The structure of University research is a huge part of this. Researchers don't care about truth or quality of their research. They care about keeping their jobs and their pay, which means several things:

    1) Publishing something that's "interesting" is more important than being accurate.
    2) Giving your funding providers the results they want is more important than being accurate.
    3) Null-hypotheses get avoided at all costs, so results are fabricated to avoid that case.

    As long as these goals are present and more important to scientists and the scientific community at large than doing actual science, this will always be a serious problem.

    • by the gnat ( 153162 ) on Friday March 13, 2015 @05:59PM (#49253419)

      As long as these goals are present and more important to scientists and the scientific community at large than doing actual science, this will always be a serious problem.

      Having worked in academia for a while, I don't entirely disagree with your diagnosis, but I think you're mischaracterizing the motives of scientists. Most of us really want to do actual science and not have to worry about money, and no one actually gets excited about grant writing the way they do about a successful experiment. The problem is that our incentive system is so screwed up that dealing with it occupies an increasing amount of our time. Even very thoughtful, scrupulous, and dedicated scientists whom I greatly respect get sidetracked by these practical concerns. It's incredibly depressing to watch, and one reason why I desperately want out.

  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Friday March 13, 2015 @05:27PM (#49253217) Homepage Journal

    "I've noticed several incidents of this happening" doesn't constitute a trend.

    And science isn't immutable truth. It's defensible belief.

    • And science isn't immutable truth. It's defensible belief.

      Science isn't even that. Science is a method. What you put in is behavior that hopefully complies with the method, and what you get out is data, broken into empirical and behavioral observations, to which we can apply some measure of confidence. The method -- science -- is quite solid. It's the rest that is error prone. All of it. In fact, as soon as "belief" replaces carefully restrained confidence, you're already screwing up.

  • by Loopy ( 41728 ) on Friday March 13, 2015 @05:30PM (#49253239) Journal

    We don't need independent verification and reproducibility anymore. The science is settled because we have consensus.

    Yes, I realize that's a bit of cherry-picking examples but all too often logical fallacies are used to justify when these things happen. I'd suggest it's an ethics crisis rather than a science crisis.

    • We don't need independent verification and reproducibility anymore. The science is settled because we have consensus.

      Independent verification happens as part of the common practices of science. Not by reproducing studies, but by extending them. Such extension requires some repetition of previous steps, thus providing verification. If something was wrong with a previous result, those who try to extend it can uncover the error.

      And let's be careful about the loaded word consensus. Scientists don't arrive at a consensus through some kind of vote. They arrive at it by examining experimental evidence and sharing insights on tha

  • Is it time for more scientists to speak out openly about raising the level of transparency and honesty in their field?

    Not until every scrap of food on earth is covered by intellectual property laws. Then we can discuss your "transparency and honesty".

    But it's Friday night, and that means the weekly open meeting of the Royal and Ancient Society of Slashdot Breitbarters has been called into session, so please proceed without further interruption.

    [Note: the phrase that pays for our drinking game tonight is, "

  • We are finally asking the right questions. Bravo.

  • There are two answers to this, the first is the easy answer:

    Science is often "wrong." This is how science works: you come up with a theory or some measurements, support it as best you can, but expect someone to do it better in a few years. Often "better" means results so different from what was seen before that the prior work is now considered "wrong." As we get better at science, this happens faster.

    The second answer is a bit more complicated and acknowledges that there is a real problem.

    To me, this is

  • Stupider scientists.

    Footnote: THe smarter people being driven to do something else.

  • Moores law failing means my new laptop is on par with an atari2600 - just slightly better than the computers Neolithic people's used. Furthermore the earth really is flat and 6000 years old, the space station is the biggest lie next to the moon landings, why else would Pixar and Disney Studios be funded by secret government grants? Global warming - pshhhtt - pure hubris to think we puny humans can change anything. Why my life became so much simpler when I realized the external world is simply my intern
  • Man, go read some of the shit that went down at the start of the industrial revolution, then come back here and say that. There have always been quacks and frauds around the fringes, and plenty of gullible people for them to prey on. If anything we're unmasking them more quickly in this day of instantaneous communication. Money clearly can subvert the process if someone has an agenda and a lot of money, but again, nothing new there. Money's been subverting the best of human intentions for thousands of years
  • "Why Does Science Appear To Be Getting Things Increasingly Wrong?"

    Probably because you have more difficulty looking at things that are in the future and near term but don't understand that the past has been largely settled.

    To put it another way, your perceptions of the past being more accurate is caused by the filters of history and time. You aren't seeing all the chaff.

    • Dumbest slashdot article of the day. Newtons laws were right in the 1700s, just as they are right today, just as they will still be right in 1,000,000 years. They will never be disproven for the size and energy scales they were intended to describe. Same is true with relativity and quantum mechanics.
  • This answer can be easily answered. Science appears to be getting worse because of a increased media coverage on the topic. To proof this, you may count the number of such media reports over time.

    The article itself provides some hypotheses on the topic of "Is science getting worse?" That might be. However, I have not seen any data to support that. Even though I would also assume that present day funding methods could increase bias and negligence. But this must be tested before the assumption becomes a valid

  • In the information age, reasonably well trained scientsts are probably better than they have ever been. However, a lot of anti-science politics and an increasing list for sensationalism in the media shed more light on scientific failure than in the past.

    Science is built on failure. And incrementally correcting it. It's how we learn. If you have enough brains to accept that all of science is to some lesser or greater degree "probably approximately correct" based on what we know, and what we know will cha

  • "... problem appears to be getting worse..." [emphasis mine]

    Anybody want to bust out some science and actually try measuring something, or just wanna sit around and whine?

    Maybe -- just maybe -- you're hearing about it more because thanks to the Internet, there is more info about everything in front of you at all times. So perhaps that explains why you're seeing more bad science? (And everything else.)

    Or maybe you could ask the tiny fucking supercomputer that's in your pocket with instant access to 98% of al

  • one could claim that science is by nature self-correcting

    That is rather the point, isn't it? Take gravity, for example. From Galileo's models of uniform acceleration, to Newton's Universal Gravitation, to Einstein's Relativity theories, etc. each of these guys knew that their models for gravity were incomplete. Yet, each of them served as increasingly accurate tools to observe the universe and make predictions about its behavior. Someday, somebody will figure out how to make a model that ties gravity out between quantum and classical mechanics, which will be

  • It takes a better scientist to correct a scientist. For all these mistakes to come to light is a sign that we are getting smarter, that research is becoming more open, and that science is accelerating. A lot of it is thanks to the internet and the speed at which information can travel. Catching our mistakes is progress. Any scientist knows this.

    > that puts the very basis of our reliance on scientific research results at risk

    Utter nonsense. Science is about applying our findings and building new tec
  • by meburke ( 736645 ) on Friday March 13, 2015 @08:05PM (#49254109)

    Basically, I suspect that science that is not evaluated scientifically loses precision and credibility.

    Take the headline in the original post: How many people actually read the headline, saw the modal argument, and realized that the presupposition was leading to a straw man argument?

    Now take an hypotheses with lots of data and present it to multiple administrators, legislators, politicians and the public: How many will subject this presentation to even the most rudimentary argument mapping such as a Toulmin worksheet? How many are even capable?

    Science is not "wrong" or "right"; hypotheses are supported or unsupported. Conclusions are never actually true or false, just justified by the evidence subject to the limits of experimentation so far.

    So, the sooner some of you software geniuses create something to quickly and efficiently evaluate and sort the arguments, the quicker we can weed out the crap and improve on the quality scientific endeavors.

  • For those that say you should just trust scientist X on anything, this if further evidence as to why that is fallacious thinking.

    If the scientists can back up what they're saying and prove it, then fine. Proof is proof.

    If they can't really prove it in a way that anyone can understand but they want you to trust them?... Ehm... depends on what that means. If they tell me something about a distant solar system that doesn't really effect anything on earth one way or the other... then sure... whatever guys. It d

  • I know people who are recent PhDs in various sciences and with only a few exceptions they have real trouble finding financing that doesn't end up going to various vested interests within their research institutions. Basically once it looks like money is coming their way all of a sudden a handful of boomer tenured professors have their hands deep into their pockets. Without it being a written rule these junior PhDs suddenly need "mentoring" or some other bullshit excuse. But when the budget is laid out the b
  • Why is the word science so insanely abused?

    By definition - science can never be wrong - it is the definition of reality.

    We need to defend the word because it represents an important idea. People who wrongly use the term need to be corrected.

    And don't get me started on math - its a language - just because the grammar is correct doesn't mean the idea expressed is true.
  • Have you ever looked up just how many Bayesian algorithms have been patented? Even crackpot approaches that do literally nothing have been patented as if neither the authors nor the reviewers knew anything about Bayesian statistics or algorithms. My favorite is a way to calculate the number of iterations required to produce optimized posteriors for coupled probabilities where in order to manage computation time by knowing how many iterations the algorithm requires, it's run twice and counted forward and b

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