Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Bad Science Chronicles: Mistakes in Science, Retractions and My New Media Crush.

Bad science is on the rise - at least if you count articles that have been yanked out of academic journals. 

Seems we're witnessing a storm of bad science in the form of retracted articles.  Like the infamous Wakefied study linking vaccines to autism, the one that got booted out of the Lancet this past year for doctored and flawed data.  Blame it on pressure to publish in academia and thus rushed analyses, distorted data, and even doctored data.   Maybe better detection.  Maybe the outright onslaught of studies waiting to be published.  Or maybe it's just the angst of academia - see Life as an Academic Can be Tough on Family.

But don't take my word for it, the Wall Street Journal has also noticed:
Since 2001, while the number of papers published in research journals has risen 44%, the number retracted has leapt more than 15-fold, data compiled for The Wall Street Journal by Thomson Reuters reveal...Just 22 retraction notices appeared in 2001, but 139 in 2006 and 339 last year. Through seven months of this year, there have been 210, according to Thomson Reuters Web of Science, an index of 11,600 peer-reviewed journals world-wide. Mistakes in Science Surging
Bad science popped up on the radar of the New York Times recently too.  An op-ed piece chronicled why scientific mistakes rarely get "corrected" by replication or publication and for that matter, even addressed in public or the media.  As I posted before, bad studies are like bratty kids who get the slurpy because their parents are too distracted or busy to take on the bad behavior. 

Of course there's also the somewhat fishy studies that grab so much media attention people start to believe them and panic, pass laws, buy entirely new sets of baby bottles and pricey Swiss water bottles, etc - like the speculative data behind the whole bisphenol-a threat that's starting to look less menacing by the month. 

The deluge of bad data is so bad it got it's own blog, my new media crush - Retraction Watch.  It's part CSI with a serious dose of New Jersey Housewives.  Those scandal queens don't got a thing on the nerds, save maybe a boob job or Botox injection. 

Who says science is boring?

Is it me or is the WSJ trying to drive people from academia with tales of plagarism, fraud, ivory-tower backstabbing and forgotten spouses and children?  Gee, why did I ever leave the ivory tower...

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