I recently wrote about fake news. Interestingly, one of the areas where news has been routinely faked is in scientific journals. It’s a PhD professional version of the “sink test” many of us saw back in college. In the sink test, students conduct the assigned experiment and when it doesn’t produce the expected results, they pour the chemicals down the sink and write a paper claiming that it worked. Now the sink test has gone pro.
WIRED magazine has a great article about it.
It turns out that the media likes to print the results of scientific studies that are bold, shocking, surprising, interesting, or titillating. Instead of the professional journals providing a forum for peers to review the information and attempt to duplicate the outcomes, it instead is a feeder for the mainstream media and—THIS JUST IN—A new study finds that the media is interested in BREAKING NEWS rather than fact. Here to express his personal opinion about this is—sorry, I got carried away.
The result? Instead of studies being proven by peers who perform the experiment and get the same results, about 40 percent of the published studies are not reproducible*. That is a corruption of the scientific method and casts legitimate doubt on findings that were supposedly obtained through systematic, unbiased study and analysis; doubt is cast on the legitimate as well as the fudged. I know the traditional wisdom is “publish or perish,” but publishing fiction—either overt or covert doesn’t count.
So, it is up to us plain, ordinary folks—the unwashed masses, the uncertified hicks, so to speak—to be more disciplined than the scientists. It is up to us to question, test, analyze, hypothesize, and then share the results with others for testing.
*There actually is a publication called The Journal of Irreproducible Results, which is best described as a humor magazine for scientists. The journal is, to the best of my knowledge, in no way responsible for the current perversion of science—although if they were, the punchline would, no doubt, be hilarious.