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Curt Rice on the quality of science.

February 7, 2013

I went to Brussels for the Beyond Questionable Practices symposium, and had a grand time. I’m writing it up, but it is still terribly rough.  Meanwhile, I want to link in to one of Curt Rice’s recent posts on the problems with the quality of science.  A few quibbles – not sure it is as bleak as some of the people he links in imply. (What the symposium showed very clearly is that scientists really really really want to do good science.  All of us! well, maybe barring a few….). Also, the New Yorker piece on the decline effect.  Jonah Lehrer.  Who I watched going up like the Hindenburgh last fall.  And, I always had mild quibbles with that piece.  If I recall, he made the decline effect kind of sound magic, and that there is some odd miss we have made as scientists (or like the universe changes as we observe it – well at the heisenberg level, yes, but not at the level of verbal overshadowing) – but it is more likely that it is due to how we publish and the praxis around stats.  (Sure, as we know more about a topic, people change. Like, try to have any average student agreeing with anything that vaguely could be related to being racist – which most definitely has changed over the past century). But, other than that, food for thought.

  1. Thanks for this, Åse. I’m looking forward to your write-up from that symposium. Sounds like a great topic. How do you find out about these things?!

    I share the view that most scientists really want to do good work. The problem is that administrators and politicians are challenging the context for that, e.g. by wanting to count … articles, citations, impact factors … and that is introducing the context for corruption, which — not surprisingly, if disappointingly — is too much of a temptation for some. If most scientists really want to discover and contribute, then those of us in leadership positions have to work to create the contexts in which that is most likely to happen. My piece here is a suggestion that there’s still work to do!

  2. Thanks Curt! I don’t quite remember how I heard about this, but it may have been through the Open Science framework that I follow (Brian Nosek). I have a number of people I follow on both Google+ and twitter that have an interest in reforming practices. I try to throw up links about them here too, when I have time.

    My first write-up is the folliwing post. It was very much focused on the researchers, and really exciting, but, as you say, there are systems issues. They did have a panel with people representing journals, university, grants, and fraud investigators, and this was interesting, but I really felt that so much more is needed there. I would love a similar symposium, where those systemic problems are discussed, and possible solutions are vented. These are questions about hiring, promotion, grants, journals, etc.

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