Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The science is settled!

An epidemic of false claims in science:
False positives and exaggerated results in peer-reviewed scientific studies have reached epidemic proportions in recent years. The problem is rampant in economics, the social sciences and even the natural sciences, but it is particularly egregious in biomedicine.
Exaggerations and bogus results getting published.  Now how could that possibly happen?
The problem begins with the public’s rising expectations of science.
Ah.  It's all the public's fault.  Got it.
Being human, scientists are tempted to show that they know more than they do. The number of investigators—and the number of experiments, observations and analyses they produce—has also increased exponentially in many fields, but adequate safeguards against bias are lacking. Research is fragmented, competition is fierce and emphasis is often given to single studies instead of the big picture.
Now that's more like it.  Scientists (like other people) are tempted to sometimes shade the truth in order to get their career ahead.  And the scientific establishment is lousy about picking up on that.
Much research is conducted for reasons other than the pursuit of truth. Conflicts of interest abound, and they influence outcomes. In health care, research is often performed at the behest of companies that have a large financial stake in the results.
In climate science there's pressure from politicians to get the right results.  The more right results you get, the more grants you get.

Nah - that's crazy talk!  The politicians are pure as the driven snow and absolutely have no ulterior motives!  And the scientists [who hid the decline - ed] are noble pursuers of holy truth!  Settled!  It's all settled, I say!

Back to Scientific American:
The crisis should not shake confidence in the scientific method. The ability to prove something false continues to be a hallmark of science. But scientists need to improve the way they do their research and how they disseminate evidence.

First, we must routinely demand robust and extensive external validation—in the form of additional studies—for any report that claims to have found something new. Many fields pay little attention to the need for replication or do it sparingly and haphazardly.
Or in the case of climate science, they pay absolutely no attention to how the actual results track the predictions:

And the SciAm article ends with this interesting tidbit:
Eventually findings that bear on treatment decisions and policies should come with a disclosure of any uncertainty that surrounds them. It is fully acceptable for patients and physicians to follow a treatment based on information that has, say, only a 1 percent chance of being correct. But we must be realistic about the odds.
A big complaint about climate science is the lack of discussion about uncertainties.  Perhaps the best article on this is Judith Curry's Uncertainty Monster, but the climate science establishment won't discuss the subject.  Rather, we keep hearing that the science is settled.

Of course, Scientific American won't discuss these issues in climate science, or Dr. Curry without slandering her.  There is something deeply broken about science as it is practiced today.


drjim said...

That's why I quit reading "Scientific" American years ago.

There's rarely any hard science in it any more, and all they seem (to me) to do is cater to the "Pop Science" crowd.

ASM826 said...

Some of those scientists are fudging their data and reporting exaggerated results for the exact same reasons that some people lie about their military records. They get some benefit from the laurels and occasionally some financial gain.

B said...

Indeed, that is why I did not renew my subscription 7 years ago.

I was raised reading Scientific American. My dad had me reading some articles as early as 8 or 9 (He sometimes had to help me with the math, but still...)

I learned a lot and respected the Magazine and the whole "Scientific Method".

Then it became a "climate global warming change catastrophe!" sycophant...and no adherence to science at all regarding this issue.

Sad. Very Sad.

ARJAY said...

Rich McEwen...27MAY15, I found this post, checked it out, and have reported several times. It's a fun read.

The Arctic Ocean is warming up, icebergs are growing scarcer and in some
places the seals are finding the water too hot, according to a report to the
Commerce Department yesterday from consulate, at Bergen, Norway reports from
fishermen, seal hunters, and explorers all point to a radical change in
climate conditions and hitherto unheard-of temperatures in the Arctic zone.

Exploration expeditions report that scarcely any ice has been met as far
north as 81 degrees 29 minutes.

Soundings to a depth of 3,100 meters showed the gulf stream still very warm.
Great masses of ice have been replaced by moraines of earth and stones, the
report continued, while at many points well known glaciers have entirely

Very few seals and no white fish are found in the eastern Arctic, while vast
shoals of herring and smelts which have never before ventured so far north,
are being encountered in the old seal fishing grounds.

Within a few years it is predicted that due to the ice melt the sea will
rise and make most coastal cities uninhabitable.

I apologize, I neglected to mention that this report was from November 2,
1922, as reported by the AP and published in The Washington Post 90+ years