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Archive of posts filed under the Miscellaneous Science category.

The challenges of statistical measurement . . . in an environment where bad measurement and junk science get hyped

I liked this article by Hannah Fry about the challenges of statistical measurement. This is a topic that many statisticians have ignored, so it’s especially satisfying to see it in the popular press. Fry discusses several examples described in recent books of Deborah Stone and Tim Harford of noisy, biased, or game-able measurements. I agree […]

More on the role of hypotheses in science

Just to be clear before going on: when I say “hypotheses,” I’m talking about scientific hypotheses, which can at times be very specific (as in physics, with Maxwell’s equations, relativity theory) but typically have some looseness to them (a biological model of how a particular drug works, a political science model of changes in public […]

On fatally-flawed, valueless papers that journals refuse to retract

Commenter Carlos pointed us to this story (update here) of some scientists—Florin Moldoveanu, Richard Gill, and five others—all of whom seem to know what they’re talking about and who are indignant that the famous Royal Society of London published a paper that’s complete B.S. and then refused to retract it when the error was pointed […]

“The real thing, like the Perseverance mission, is slow, difficult and expensive, but far cooler than the make-believe alternative.”

Good point by Palko. He’s talking about the Mars rover: There’s a huge disconnect in our discussion of manned space travel. We’ve grown accustomed to vague promises about Martian cities just around the corner, but in the real world, our best engineering minds have never landed anything larger than a car on Mars and this […]

When does mathematical tractability predict human behavior?

This is Jessica. I have been reading theoretical papers recently that deal with human behavior in aggregate (e.g., game theory, distribution shift in ML), and have been puzzling a little over statements made about the link between solution complexity and human behavior. For example:  In a book on algorithmic game theory: “Can a Nash equilibrium […]

Not being able to say why you see a 2 doesn’t excuse your uninterpretable model

This is Jessica, but today I’m blogging about a blog post on interpretable machine learning that co-blogger Keith wrote for his day job and shared with me. I agree with multiple observations he makes. Some highlights: The often suggested simple remedy for this unmanageable complexity is just finding ways to explain these black box models; […]

What’s the purpose of mathematical modeling?

Peter Dorman writes: I think this is an example of what good science journalism looks like. The description of modeling methods and even workflow is as accurate as it could be without getting beyond the technical background of its readership. Nice graphics! I like the discussion of the tradeoff between granularity in model design and […]

Meta-meta-science studies

August Wartin asks: Are you are familiar with any (economic) literature that attempts to model academia or the labor market for researchers (or similar), incorporating stuff like e.g. publication bias, researcher degrees of freedom, the garden of forking paths etcetera (and that perhaps also discusses possible proposals/mechanisms to mitigate these problems)? And perhaps you might […]

Wow, just wow. If you think Psychological Science was bad in the 2010-2015 era, you can’t imagine how bad it was back in 1999

Shane Frederick points us to this article from 1999, “Stereotype susceptibility: Identity salience and shifts in quantitative performance,” about which he writes: This is one of the worst papers ever published in Psych Science (which is a big claim, I recognize). It is old, but really worth a look if you have never read it. […]

This system too often rewards cronyism rather than hard work or creativity — and perpetuates the gross inequalities in representation …

This post is by Lizzie. I started this a while ago, but Andrew’s Doll House post pushed me to finally get it up on the blog. The above quote comes from a recent article on the revelation that the person Philip Roth decided should write his authorized biography has a history of sexual harassment accusations […]

When does a misunderstanding reach the point where it is recognized to be flat-out ridiculous?

James Lasdun reviews a book by Ariel Sabar telling the story of a conman who sold a fake Bible-related document to a Harvard professor, leading to academic publications and media publicity before the whole thing fell apart. The most amusing of many amusing bits: An Egyptologist at Brown University, Leo Depuydt, found a ‘colossal double […]

We should all routinely criticize our own work.

Kerim Kavakli points me to this blog by psychology researcher Todd Kashdan who goes over his recent career and points to concerns he has with his own published work. I agree with Kavakli that this is a great thing that all of us should be doing. I did not read Kashdan’s examples in detail so […]

The Brazilian Reproducibility Initiative wants your comments on their analysis plan!

Kleber Neves and Olavo Amaral write: We are the coordinators of the Brazilian Reproducibility Initiative, a multicenter systematic replication of experiments from Brazilian biomedical science (the project has been discussed in your blog before via Anna Dreber when we were recruiting participants for our prediction markets). We write now because the first version of our […]

Jordan Ellenberg’s new book, “Shape”

The full title is “Shape: The Hidden Geometry of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else,” and I wasn’t looking forward to it. Yes, I’m a fan of Jordan Ellenberg, a practicing mathematician who’s also written general-interest books, but I have unpleasant memories of the math olympiad program where they were always trying to shove […]

Plan for the creation of “a network of new scientific institutes pursuing basic research while not being dependent on universities, the NIH, and the rest of traditional academia and, importantly, not being dominated culturally by academia”

Alexey Guzey is a recent college graduate from Moscow who we heard about in connection with the Why We Sleep saga. He wrote a post a couple years ago called How Life Sciences Actually Work, and some point after that he decided to create a new organization to facilitate research outside academia. Here’s his pitch: […]

Open data and quality: two orthogonal factors of a study

It’s good for a study to have open data, and it’s good for the study to be high quality. If for simplicity we dichotomize these variables, we can find lots of examples in all four quadrants: – Unavailable data, low quality: The notorious ESP paper from 2011 and tons of papers published during that era […]

“Analysis challenges slew of studies claiming ocean acidification alters fish behavior”

Lizzie Wolkovich writes: Here’s an interesting new paper in climate change ecology that states, “Using data simulations, we additionally show that the large effect sizes and small within-group variances that have been reported in several previous studies are highly improbable.” I [Lizzie] wish I were more surprised, but mostly I was impressed they did the […]

A recommender system for scientific papers

Jeff Leek writes: We created a web app that lets people very quickly sort papers on two axes: how interesting it is and how plausible they think it is. We started with covid papers but have plans to expand it to other fields as well. Seems like an interesting idea, a yelp-style recommender system but […]

Is explainability the new uncertainty?

This is Jessica. Last August, NIST published a draft document describing four principles of explainable AI. They asked for feedback from the public at large, to “stimulate a conversation about what we should expect of our decision-making devices‘’.  I find it interesting because from a quick skim, it seems like NIST is stepping into some […]

Why did it take so many decades for the behavioral sciences to develop a sense of crisis around methodology and replication?

“On or about December 1910 human character changed.” — Virginia Woolf (1924). Woolf’s quote about modernism in the arts rings true, in part because we continue to see relatively sudden changes in intellectual life, not merely from technology (email and texting replacing letters and phone calls, streaming replacing record sales, etc.) and power relations (for […]

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