We had a treat today - a talk by Ed Yong, science journalist and purveyor-of-wonder *extraordinaire*, about scientific misconduct and fraud. I would have loved to add more of my notes to this, but then it would be unreasonably long. Just follow Ed on Twitter for more (of course you already do).
Oops... But how could I miss this? Some pictures (N.B. speaker brought sweets):
The idea of this talk was to initiate undergraduates into the true world of science. To open the doors of perception. To teach them to be cynical and sceptical. To...well, to break them.
Ed spoke in the manner that we know him well: fascinating, funny, backed up by evidence, and a bit sweary.
Scientists aren't only on a pure quest for truth. They also want to publish papers, to find jobs, to get funding. Scientists are human: and therefore they are "flawed, egotistical, power-hungry and biased".
He talked not only of wilful fraud and misconduct, but also (presumably) unintentional bad practice: dodgy statistics and methodology, such as collecting data until you reach statistical significance and then stopping.
He talked of how difficult it is to reveal these problems. That replication studies languish unknown, unpublished, providing fodder only for private conversations between scientists.
The problem is that we have an environment in which bad practices can survive, or even thrive. To me, the following was one of the most important points:
The misty-eyed view of science being a self-correcting process is not entirely realistic...
I'm not sure at what point SG was mentioned (I must have been concentrating on tweeting)...
Ed gave one reason many people get into science blogging, and later into science journalism: