“Science has taken a turn towards darkness”

These are quotes from the editor of The Lancet, the premier medical journal in the world, reported by Steve Hayward at Powerline. My link is through Hayward’s post, but any of us who have dealt with global vermin will know what he means. And that is not where it stops.

“A lot of what is published is incorrect.” I’m not allowed to say who made this remark because we were asked to observe Chatham House rules. We were also asked not to take photographs of slides. Those who worked for government agencies pleaded that their comments especially remain unquoted . . . this symposium—on the reproducibility and reliability of biomedical research, held at the Wellcome Trust in London last week—touched on one of the most sensitive issues in science today: the idea that something has gone fundamentally wrong with one of our greatest human creations.

The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness. . .

The apparent endemicity of bad research behaviour is alarming. In their quest for telling a compelling story, scientists too often sculpt data to fit their preferred theory of the world. Or they retrofit hypotheses to fit their data. Journal editors deserve their fair share of criticism too. We aid and abet the worst behaviours. Our acquiescence to the impact factor fuels an unhealthy competition to win a place in a select few journals. Our love of “significance” pollutes the literature with many a statistical fairy-tale. We reject important confirmations. Journals are not the only miscreants. Universities are in a perpetual struggle for money and talent, endpoints that foster reductive metrics, such as high-impact publication. . . nobody is ready to take the first step to clean up the system. [Emphasis added.]

Scientific research in some areas has become like the media. There are only certain conclusions you are allowed to reach and if you want that next grant, or that next publication, you had better make sure you are well within the acceptable range of opinion.

And here is the direct link to the editor of The Lancet where you can read his comments in full.

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