The sad state of modern science


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Two stories today illustrate the levels of corruption that now percolate through many fields of science, helped by a willing and sometimes ignorant press.

First, a final report has been issued in the investigation into the fraudulent research of social psychologist Diederik Stapel. Sadly, it appears the report condemns the entire field:

[The investigators] paint an image of a “sloppy” research culture in which some scientists don’t understand the essentials of statistics, journal-selected article reviewers encourage researchers to leave unwelcome data out of their papers, and even the most prestigious journals print results that are obviously too good to be true.

Worse, three different universities participated in Stapel’s fraud, and never noticed. At least 25 of Stapel’s papers have now been retracted.

Then there is this article about an investigation into the lack of scientific merit of a paper that claimed that genetically modified maize caused tumors in rats. Apparently, according to European scientific authorities, the paper had no merit and did not meet the basics of scientific research. Nor was this investigation the first to come to this conclusion.

First, that the paper got published in a peer reviewed journal in the first place says a great deal about that journal’s standards. Second, when first published the paper had been condemned immediately but a number of scientists. yet it apparently received tons of adoring press coverage, probably because it provided evidence for the politically correct position that genetically modified agriculture is bad. Both facts suggest that this is another case, similar to that of the climate field, where scientists allowed politics to badly influence their judgement.

All in all, not a good day for science and its reputation.

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