The public used to see politicians in far more exalted terms than they do now. The same fate befell the clergy. Now it’s scientists.
Among the American public, trust in professional scientists and scientific journals is declining. Yet an overwhelming majority still believes that science "remains a source for good in the world." Could the public be on to something? Medical-doctor-turned-journalist Ivan Oransky thinks so. And it’s a growing problem.
As editor and publisher of Retraction Watch, a closely followed industry blog that tracks peer-reviewed journal articles withdrawn from publication, Oransky is raising awareness of the impact that competition for grants and career advancement is having on the quality of the science being produced. Far from being above the fray and immune to corrupting influences, "Scientists are just as human as anyone else," says Oransky. And increasingly, "People are starting to see scientists the way they really are."
This is especially relevant to our concerns here:
Another major problem is that many study results cannot be reliably reproduced. Oransky cites a famous paper by Dr. John Iaonnidis, "Why most published research findings are false," that shows the inherent biases and the flawed statistical analyses built into most "hypothesis driven" research, resulting in publications that largely represent "accurate measures of the prevailing bias."
Scientific pronouncements as an "accurate measure of the prevailing bias" — those are words to commit to memory. When we say things like that, they say we’re "anti-science." No, just pro-realism about scientists.
Also quoted, Dr. Thomas Stossel of Harvard Medical School:
“I realized how fundamentally honest business people are compared to my academic colleagues, who’d run their grandmothers over for recognition.”
As for non-scientists who have not yet been disabused of their childlike faith, one can only say: Growing up is hard to do.
Image source: Antonio Zugaldia/Flickr.