PEER REVIEW AND BAD SCIENCE

PEER REVIEW AND BAD SCIENCE

Mr. S.C., a regular contributor of articles here, found this one that appeared recently in the U.K.s The Guardian newspaper and sent it to me, and I include it here because of its intrinsic interest to what is happening in universities in the West, and the choking effects of "big science" and the emphasis on publication. Indeed, if you'll recall, a few days ago I blogged about the recent "poll" of the top universities in the world, which placed my alma mater, the University of Oxford at the top of the list. That poll, you'll recall, was based on various criteria, among them the amount of citations that appeared in various professional journals from various universities, with Oxford leading the list. As I noted at the time, mere quantity of citations in journals does not necessarily nor logically imply anything about the quality of those submissions.

Well, now the Guardian has weigh in with an interesting article:

Cut-throat academia leads to 'natural selection of bad science', claims study

Consider these paragraphs:

Paul Smaldino, a cognitive scientist who led the work at the University of California, Merced, said: “As long as the incentives are in place that reward publishing novel, surprising results, often and in high-visibility journals above other, more nuanced aspects of science, shoddy practices that maximise one’s ability to do so will run rampant.”

The paper comes as psychologists and biomedical scientists are grappling with an apparent replication crisis, in which many high profile results have been shown to be unreliable. Observations that striking a power pose will make you feel bolder, smiling makes you feel happy or that placing a pair of “big brother” eyes on the wall will protect against theft have all failed to stand up to replication.Sociology, economics, climate science and ecology are other areas likely to be vulnerable to the propagation of bad practice, according to Smaldino.

“My impression is that, to some extent, the combination of studying very complex systems with a dearth of formal mathematical theory creates good conditions for low reproducibility,” he said. “This doesn’t require anyone to actively game the system or violate any ethical standards. Competition for limited resources – in this case jobs and funding – will do all the work.

Drawing parallels with Darwin’s classic theory of evolution, Smaldino claims that various forms of bad scientific practice flourish in the academic world, much like hardy germs that thwart extermination in real life.

As the article also notes, there is also a lurking problem in publications for the past decades of too small statistical sampling and non-replicability that results from this. The problem is inbuilt into the system, for by emphasizing publication, one floods the market with "product" that emphasizes quantity and not quality:

Vince Walsh, a professor of neuroscience at University College London, said he was not convinced of the existence of a replication crisis, but that the paper raised valid concerns about the culture of science. “I agree that the pressure to publish is corrosive and anti-intellectual. Scientists are just humans, and if organisations are dumb enough to rate them on sales figures, they will do discounts to reach the targets, just like any other sales person,” he said.

There is, however, another factor that I think must be considered in any consideration of academic quality, and by "academic" I mean more than just the hard sciences: money. The problem now is that science has become "big science," dependent on government grants and big corporate money, which more often than not support research into "the narratives of orthodoxy", be those narratives scientific or otherwise. Consider CERN in this philosophical and epistemological context: how does one replicate completely independently the results that CERN is reporting and claiming? Obviously, one cannot built a gigantic particle collider in one's garage. But the point is, to replicate results completely independently of CERN, one has to build a similar and completely separate collider, and run the experiments again. This is perhaps one reason that China wants to build its own (and bigger) version of the large hardon collider in that country. (And, as I have suggested, perhaps another reason is they might suspect that some of the reported results are suspect.)

In short, science has turned into big business, and like all big businesses, it is not immune to the corrupting influences of money. And this bodes ill for the traditional practice of peer review, which as the article also implies without coming right out and stating explicitly, that process itself appears to be being "dumbed down," which prompts the need for for a thorough reconsideration of the process itself. Should there be a "full disclosure" or where the money is coming from for certain studies? I suggest there probably should be. In many cases, such studies are required to disclose the sources of their financing (this study was made possible by a grant from the such-and-such foundation). But perhaps it is time to examine the journals and their moneyed sponsors as well.

But this is a case for "you tell me," for much is at stake here, and the more voices participate, in my opinion, the better. Science, like philosophy and the arts, lie at the core of our civilization, and too much is at stake.

See you on the flip side...

14 thoughts on “PEER REVIEW AND BAD SCIENCE”

  1. I think it’s worth considering something Ayn Rand brought up in her essay “Kant versus Sullivan”, where she tears to shreds an article which tries to argue the possibility of a science that doesn’t require empirical data. Her point wasn’t to expose the logical fallacies of the article, she more concerned with why such rubbish appeared in the leading American journal of the philosophic profession at that time (1969).
    She says:
    “A brilliant young professor of philosophy gave me the following explanation of the appearance of that article: “They [the academic philosophers] would enjoy it because it attacks philosophy, in a hooligan manner, including some of their most cherished beliefs, such as empiricism. They get a kick out of it. They will read and publish anything, so long as it does not imply a broad, consistent, integrated system of ideas””
    (from her essay collection “Philosophy: who needs it”)

    Much of Ayn Rand’s work can be viewed as an autopsy on western philosophy, and she predicted that science would head in same direction if it failed to learn from philosophy’s mistakes.

  2. “…China wants to build its own (and bigger) version of the large hardon collider in that country.”

    Hardon??? So as to underscore ‘collider enhancement’?

  3. I was investigating 10 to 12 years ago about the issue of CO2 and the impact of air temperature on behalf of a friend of mine that had been coming up with a patent that could relieve the effect CO2 realeased to the atmosphere.

    It bacame a two year study, several books of independant reseachers and also books published from well known universities. And, of course, a one meter stack of articles found on the internet. The issue was big.

    I think the hockey stick fraud told me something about academia, but also, that, what I found, this fraud had been penetrating into the books published by the well known universities.

    Then, I was looking after evidence. Could there be some experiments that could prove this alleged effect. There were only shoddy graphs that proved nothing and spagetti graphs produced by computer models that only had two dimension data sources. It was a mess.

    But, what I last found were convincing, was the work of the late Landscheit and the work of the Russian scientist, I think one of the name was Klyashtorin (published in a FAO report, 2001), about cycles. The Russians had been working over the issue of fish populasion in the North Pasific, and the North Atlantic.

    The explanation why fish population show those huge variations, cycles, is in the deep water. The mean temperaure of the oceans are about 3.7 C, Only the top 100 to 200 meter has the heat from communicating with th air and the sun. But, due to the gravitional forces of the moon and the sun it effects the the temperature of the shallow waters were the fishing stocks are laying their eggs.

    The Russians found out that there was a 60 to 70 year cycle. We are now in a cold mode in the Eastern Atlantic. It means that the sardine population outside Portugal and Marocco had to decline and it has happened, and that the cod stock in the North Atlantic had to increase is now at record high, it has lasted for now 6 years.

    But, there is a conondrum here. The North Sea should have been filled up with cold deep water so that the cod and the herring could flow into it and the great herring fishing outside the east side of Sweden could occur. But that is not happening. So what could be the cause?

    Well, I think professor James M. McCanney is on the track. He is suggesting that temperature increase in the Northerns Sphere has to do with termal pollution. Between 80 to 90 % of mineral oil, mineral coal is burned in the Northern Sphere. And you can add the 500 nuclear plants.

    If you look at the Southern Sphere, the ice sheet around the Antarctic has been increasing for every year, more ore less, the last decades.

    So I suggest that the lack of herring and cod migrating into the North Sea has to be that there is a termal pollution because of all the pipelines of oil and gas that are crossing the ground.

    So, summed it up, the peer look into science article,is, excuse me for the expression, but it is from my outspoken Northern Norwgian heritage, we call it hand and ass.

    A simple experiment could prove or dissaprove the effect of CO2. Put up two stacks in a dessert, and fill up one of them with CO2, then measure the temperature in both stacks. This experiment would call the carbon tax regime fraud that is infecting the perfect Western World paradigme.

    And my friend did not loose any money.

  4. Another Problem with the so-called peer review is the inherent incestuous cronyism in the journals,which corrupts the process into a de facto “pals’ review”.

    IMHO, Whether a paper is rejected or published, all reviews and reviewer affiliations should be made available online for all to see and public Commentary.
    All published papers,after a time, should go for a second round of reviews after initial publications, with a different set of reviewers.

  5. One has only to look at the ESP field to see the hand of the elites in ‘science’. What would place the masses beyond the reach of the elites? Why ESP, of course. So, a long-term war has been waged in this field. This is not only in modern times, even reaching-back to the persecution/demonization of ‘wise women’ and seers.

    Today, try to get a grant doing psychic research. The elite DO NOT want us ‘scoping them out’…

  6. Only two months ago on MSM a new study; “Scientists say Chemtrails Don’t Exist” published in the Journal Environmental research letters. And the public breathes a sigh of relief. So I researched a little and it wasn’t a study imho. It was ran by one man who showed four pictures of chemtrails to 77 scientists and some data reports of the different chemicals found in dirt or water. Only two scientists found the chemical composition odd.
    We can also add the largest scientific fraud in modern history, the 2nd hand smoke joke. http://www.nycclash.com/CaseAgainstBans/EPA.html

  7. Only two months ago on MSM a new study; “Scientists say Chemtrails Don’t Exist” published in the Journal Environmental research letters. And the public breathes a sigh of relief. So I researched a little and it wasn’t a study imho. It was ran by one man who showed four pictures of chemtrails to 70 scientists and some data reports of the different chemicals found in dirt or water. Only one scientist found the chemical composition odd.
    The

  8. nothing is more narrow-minded and money-funded than ‘Academia’; even in so-called ‘science’ (cough) those who toe the pre-programmed line are rewarded with high positions (meaning more money) and those who question “official stories” are ostracised and left to fend for themselves-

    Larry in Germany

  9. The real problem in the West is they come up with the theory first. Then search for or concoct the evidence to support what they want to believe and serve whatever purpose that idea was created for. The geocentric universe, non-northern European-Afro-Asian-native American-Australian people are subhuman. And here the (scientific)evidence to prove it and the march of folly continues.

  10. Might not university research in its entirety represent today only a sort of “Potemkin laboratory” anyway? In other words, would it not be fair to assume most of the truly groundbreaking research of the last half century or more has taken place only deep within the darkest bowels of the military industrial nexus?

    And if this be so, an apparent degradation in research standards among top universities may most tellingly reveal not the latter’s misguided competition to prolifically publish (“the trees”) but a well designed and a masterfully orchestrated choking off of grant funding for almost all significant lines of publishable scientific inquiry by the aforementioned nexus (“the forest”).

    In this light Oxford has received only an approving nod for its more industrious maintenance of the illusion of relevance.

  11. As replete in all areas and milieu of global societies money is shaping the living earth in its image. A privatized monopolized currency whose bottom line is power/control.
    Not health.
    Not science.
    and definitely….

    NOT LIFE!!!

  12. At least other countries get a chance to get on pas with Western science or surpass it like Russia did in the last 25 years. A country in wreck and ruin, plundered to its core and drowned in IMF loans a mere 25 years ago and look at it now!!!

    Iran, China, India awakening also out from under hegemonial hammer of the West and searching for their own identity.

    What will the world look like a mere 25 years from now?

    Must be a rude awakening for the parasites of the Western world and I don’t think they at all react good to change considering todays “panick mode” they spread thru todays media.

  13. Unfortunately, science has become the new “religion”. Money, power, and “interpretation” have corrupted every other religion and the new one will go down the same road. Examine “psychiatry” with its latest edition of “syndromes” and “diseases” or “physics” with its “fudges” and “virtual” particles which ignore the physicality of physics; and mainstream physicists inability to question whether the “old masters” may have made errors in the “baseline” equations.
    Even Einstein’s constant c has been called into question recently with the discovery of neutrinos traveling faster than light in recent experiments. One should also take a look at the many faces and other attributes of “Stephen Hawkins” over the years. A man who has survived a disease for decades which kills fairly quickly. Question just why a fraud of this type would be perpetrated on the scientific community. What and whose agenda would this serve?
    The GMO issue, trans humanism, and playing “god” with the human genome is another prime example of the corporatocracy’s way too fast race down a path which may eventually lead to our own destruction. Releasing these “experiments”, with little to no long term science behind them, into the wild is idiotocracy of the first order. Are we repeating the same mistake which is rumored to have destroyed Atlantis?

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