Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Academic Fraud

Today, I shall quote verbatim the subheading for one of the Taipei Times' imported editorials from the Guardian:
I had to grin and give a little nostril-quiver when I read that; an article like this, published in specifically left-wing newspapers like the Guardian and the Taipei Times, is interesting not only because it signals a dawning awareness of the extent of the academic and scientific rot, but because it directs the first drops of iodine into the field of psychology and allows the moisture to spread outwards from there.
"The field of psychology has come under particular scrutiny because many results in the scientific literature defy replication by other researchers."
Psychology. For freud's sake: it is the easiest of the so-called "soft" sciences to pick on; it is not even regarded with contempt because, unlike climate science or economics, it produces comparatively little in the way of political ammunition; the field goes largely unnoticed and unremarked upon outside of "human interest" stories. In some ways, this is a shame.

Nevertheless, the implications are of course generalized beyond psychology - and that is why this editorial is interesting...
"According to a report in the journal Nature, published retractions in scientific journals have increased around 1,200 percent over the past decade, even though the number of published papers had gone up by only 44 percent."
Read that again: 1, 200 %.

Perhaps the significance of the point is that a story like this - particularly with support from a paper published in Nature (remember a certain "Hockey Stick"?) - might help certain people prepare to tone down their propaganda: they might yet begin to attenuate their arguments to accommodate the admission that the peer-review process is not quite as trustworthy as they had previously insisted it was.

It is however, just one editorial - so I may be reading too much into it.

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