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Archive of posts filed under the Miscellaneous Science category.

The flashy crooks get the headlines, but the bigger problem is everyday routine bad science done by non-crooks

In the immortal words of Michael Kinsley, the real scandal isn’t what’s illegal, the scandal is what’s legal. I was reminded of this principle after seeing this news article about the discredited Surgisphere doctor (see here for background). The news article was fine—it’s good to learn these things—but, as with pizzagate, evilicious, and other science […]

“No one is going to force you to write badly. In the long run, you won’t even be rewarded for it. But, unfortunately, it is true that they’ll often let you get away with it.”

Basbøll says it well. Relatedly, see here. Writing is hard.

Can the science community help journalists avoid science hype? It won’t be easy.

tl;dr: Selection bias. The public letter Michael Eisen and Rob Tibshirani write: Researchers have responded to the challenge of the coronavirus with a commitment to speed and cooperation, featuring the rapid sharing of preliminary findings through “preprints,” scientific manuscripts that have not yet undergone formal peer review. . . . But the open dissemination of […]

Children’s Variety Seeking in Food Choices

Margaret Echelbarger et al. write: Across three studies, we examine the variety selections of 329 children (4–9 years of age) and 81 adults in the food domain. In studies 1 and 2, we find that, like adults, children prefer to diversify their selections given no established preference for one item over another. In study 3, […]

“Time Travel in the Brain”

Natalie Biderman and Daphna Shohamy wrote this science article for kids. Here’s the abstract: Do you believe in time travel? Every time we remember something from the past or imagine something that will happen in the future, we engage in mental time travel. Scientists discovered that, whether we mentally travel back into the past or […]

MIT’s science magazine misrepresents critics of Stanford study

I’m disappointed. MIT can and should do better. I know MIT is not perfect—even setting aside Jeffrey Epstein and the Media Lab more generally, it’s just an institution, and all institutions have flaws. But they should be able to run a competent science magazine, for chrissake. Scene 1 Last month, I received the following query […]

bla bla bla PEER REVIEW bla bla bla

OK, I’ve been saying this over the phone to a bunch of journalists during the past month so I might as well share it with all of you . . . 1. The peers . . . The problem with peer review is the peers. Who are “the peers” of four M.D.’s writing up an […]

What are the best scientific papers ever written?

When I say “best,” I mean coolest, funnest to read, most thought-provoking, etc. Not necessarily the most path-breaking. For example, did Andrew Wiles write a paper with the proof of Fermat’s last theorem? If so, I can’t imagine this would be readable. So, sure, it’s a great accomplishment but it’s not what I’m talking about. […]

Statistical Workflow and the Fractal Nature of Scientific Revolutions (my talk this Wed at the Santa Fe Institute)

Wed 3 June 2020 at 12:15pm U.S. Mountain time: Statistical Workflow and the Fractal Nature of Scientific Revolutions How would an A.I. do statistics? Fitting a model is the easy part. The other steps of workflow—model building, checking, and revision—are not so clearly algorithmic. It could be fruitful to simultaneously think about automated inference and […]

This one’s for the Lancet editorial board: A trolley problem for our times (involving a plate of delicious cookies and a steaming pile of poop)

A trolley problem for our times OK, I couldn’t quite frame this one as a trolley problem—maybe those of you who are more philosophically adept than I am can do this—so I set it up as a cookie problem? Here it is: Suppose someone was to knock on your office door and use some mix […]

The turtles stop here. Why we meta-science: a meta-meta-science manifesto

All those postscripts in the previous post . . . this sort of explanation of why I’m writing about the scientific process, it comes up a lot. I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about the research process, rather than just doing research. And all too often I often find myself taking time […]

“The Moral Economy of Science”

In our discussion of Lorraine Daston’s “How Probabilities Came to Be Objective and Subjective,” commenter John Richters points to Daston’s 1995 article, “The Moral Economy of Science,” which is super-interesting and also something I’d never heard of before. I should really read the whole damn article and comment on everything in it, but for now […]

Alexey Guzey’s sleep deprivation self-experiment

Alexey “Matthew Walker’s ‘Why We Sleep’ Is Riddled with Scientific and Factual Errors” Guzey writes: I [Guzey] recently finished my 14-day sleep deprivation self experiment and I ended up analyzing the data I have only in the standard p < 0.05 way and then interpreting it by writing explicitly about how much I believe I […]

Baby alligators: Adorable, deadly, or endangered? You decide.

Yeah, I know, yet another post about baby alligators . . . can’t we find anything else to write about around here? Lizzie points us to this tabloid news article which she files under the heading, “why we need priors in climate change biology”: Why baby alligators in some spots could be 98% female by […]

Get your research project reviewed by The Red Team: this seems like a good idea!

Ruben Arslan writes: A colleague recently asked me to be a neutral arbiter on his Red Team challenge. He picked me because I was skeptical of his research plans at a conference and because I recently put out a bug bounty program for my blog, preprints, and publications (where people get paid if they find […]

2 perspectives on the relevance of social science to our current predicament: (1) social scientists should back off, or (2) social science has a lot to offer

Perspective 1: Social scientists should back off This is what the political scientist Anthony Fowler wrote the other day: The public appetite for more information about Covid-19 is understandably insatiable. Social scientists have been quick to respond. . . . While I understand the impulse, the rush to publish findings quickly in the midst of […]

They want open peer review for their paper, and they want it now. Any suggestions?

Someone writes: We’re in the middle of what feels like a drawn out process of revise and resubmit with one of the big journals (though by pre-pandemic standards everything has moved quite quickly), and what’s most frustrating is that the helpful criticisms and comments from the reviewers, plus our extensive responses and new sensitivity analyses […]

“Curing Coronavirus Isn’t a Job for Social Scientists”

Anthony Fowler wrote a wonderful op-ed. You have to read the whole thing, but let me start with his most important point, about “the temptation to overclaim” in social science: One study estimated the economic value of the people spared through social-distancing efforts. Essentially, the authors took estimates from epidemiologists about the number of lives […]

Resolving the cathedral/bazaar problem in coronavirus research (and science more generally): Could we follow the model of genetics research (as suggested by some psychology researchers)?

The other day I wrote about the challenge in addressing the pandemic—a worldwide science/engineering problem—using our existing science and engineering infrastructure, which is some mix of government labs and regulatory agencies, private mega-companies, smaller companies, university researchers, and media entities and rich people who can direct attention and resources. The current system might be the […]

My talk Wednesday at the Columbia coronavirus seminar

The talk will be sometime the morning of Wed 6 May in this seminar. Title: Some statistical issues in the fight against coronavirus. Abstract: To be a good citizen, you sometimes have to be a bit of a scientist. To be a good scientist, you sometimes have to be a bit of a statistician. And […]