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Never trust a scientist The latest psychology scandal is a reminder of an old principle

Why do so many exciting studies turn out to be bogus? Credit: DeKeerle/Sygma via Getty Images

Why do so many exciting studies turn out to be bogus? Credit: DeKeerle/Sygma via Getty Images


August 26, 2021   5 mins

In 2002, a Harvard professor named Marc Hauser made an exciting discovery about monkeys. Cotton-top tamarins, to be specific. The monkeys, just like human infants, were able to generalise rules that they’d learned across different patterns. This was a big deal: if monkeys had this capacity, it would provide key insights into how human language evolved.

Except it was all fake: in the experiment, which relied on the monkeys looking in particular directions when shown certain patterns, Hauser had simply pretended that they were looking in the direction relevant to his language-evolution theory. They hadn’t been. When a research assistant questioned how Hauser himself kept finding the results he wanted when nobody else who looked at the data could, he turned into a browbeating bully: “I am getting a bit pissed here,” he wrote in an email. “There were no inconsistencies!”

It is just a tiny bit ironic, then, that Hauser had also written a book about morality. Moral Minds: The Nature of Right and Wrong came out in 15 years ago, and described Hauser’s theory that we have an in-built, evolved morality module in our brains. Perhaps his had gone somewhat awry: not only did he fake the data in that monkey-learning paper, but there were also allegations that he’d lifted many of his book’s ideas — most notably, the idea that morality has a “universal grammar”, like language — from another academic, John Mikhail, without crediting him at all.

You might have expected better from an Ivy League university professor. But the Hauser case was a classic reminder of how even the most high-powered intellectuals from the most august institutions should never be given our implicit trust.

Sadly, we now have yet another story that underlines this lesson; something similar might have happened again. Another psychology professor from a top university; another pop-science book; another set of results that aren’t real and were never real to begin with; another set of credible (though, I hasten to add, at this time unproven) allegations of scientific fraud. And another irony, because the potentially dishonest results were in a study about: honesty.

Duke University’s Dan Ariely has written several books that made a big splash in the world of popular psychology and “behavioural economics”. His combination of humour and what appears to be deep psychological insight made them fly off the shelves. In 2008, Predictably Irrational provided an apparently “revolutionary” argument for why economists were wrong to assume rationality on the part of the average consumer. In 2012, The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty used some of Ariely’s own research to explain what makes people break the rules. Ariely’s slick, charismatic TED talks have racked up millions of views. One of them, titled “Our Buggy Moral Code”, explains “why we think it’s okay to cheat or steal”.

Unfortunately, it seems someone involved with Ariely’s research thought it was okay to cheat. Last week, an in-depth statistical analysis showed that a dataset from one of his 2012 papers was, essentially beyond doubt, fraudulent. The study had apparently showed that people were more honest about how much mileage their car had done if you made them sign a “I promise this information is true” statement before they reported the mileage, rather than at the bottom of the page. But it hadn’t shown that. In fact, it seems no such study ever happened, and the data was just produced using a random number generator.

Ariely responded to the claims: he said that he’d had a car insurance company collect the data, so someone there must have faked it (impressively, the faker made the results of the study line up perfectly with Ariely’s theory). In other words, his crime was one of sloppiness rather than fraud, since he didn’t double-check the data. He won’t say which insurance company it was — his responses were described by BuzzFeed News’s investigative journalist Stephanie Lee as “vague and conflicting”— nor will Duke University reveal any of the details of the investigation they claim to have made into the matter. The study with the allegedly fraudulent data — which has been cited over 400 times by other scientists — is to be retracted.

Like Hauser’s paper on monkeys (which has been cited more than 175 times), that apparently faked paper on honesty has already done damage to the scientific literature: each of those 400 citations used it, to a greater or lesser extent, to buttress some scientific argument they were making. In every case, they seem to have been misled. This is part of the tragedy of fraud in a cumulative endeavour like science. The least Ariely could do now is provide every possible detail of the provenance of the fake dataset so the scientific community can get to the bottom of it.

But, in the case of Ariely, reticence is something of a pattern. In 2010 he told an interviewer a “fact” about the extent to which dentists agree on whether a tooth has a cavity (he said it was only 50% of the time). His apparent source, Delta Dental insurance, denied this. Ariely claimed someone at Delta Dental had given him the information — but he wouldn’t reveal anything about them, other than the fact they’d definitely not want to talk to anyone else about it.

And just a few months ago, another of his papers (from 2004) was given a special editorial “expression of concern” because of over a dozen statistical impossibilities in the reported numbers. These couldn’t be checked, Ariely said, because he’d lost the original data file.

Maybe it’s worth looking at Ariely’s own theory about cheating and dishonesty. In his TED talk, he described an experiment of his in which the participants had been more likely to cheat on a “dollar-per-correct-answer” maths test if they only had to self-report their number of correct answers, having shredded the answer sheet. That is, when nobody could check the details, dishonesty kicked in. (Someone should probably check the data in that study is legitimate, though.)

Science is supposed to be all about nullius in verba — take nobody’s word for it. Everything, down to the tiniest detail, is supposed to be readily verifiable. Even if a scientist has done everything completely above board, they shouldn’t have to rely on “the dog ate my homework” or “I do have a girlfriend but she goes to a different school so you wouldn’t know her” excuses. The whole idea of having a scientific record is to, well, record things; a literature that’s full not just of fraud but also unverifiable claims is a strange contradiction in terms.

Even if this is the end of the Ariely affair and no other issues with his research are found, it’s still a perfect illustration of so many of the problems with our scientific system. A patchy literature of unclear veracity. Researchers losing track of their data, allowing error, and sometimes fraud, to slip in. Scientists building lucrative careers on a foundation of dodgy research, while the people that clean up their mess — the fraud-busters and data sleuths — go largely unsung. Bestselling popular books spreading untrue and unverifiable claims to thousands of readers.

You need only look at previous massively-successful books on the topics of human biases and the importance of sleep to see how low-quality research and sloppy scientific arguments can reach enormous audiences. At best, the implications of this are that dinner-party conversations will contain even fewer solid facts than usual. At worst, patients (or their doctors) will make decisions about their health on the basis of some unproven, vaguely-reported fact they read in some famous professor’s popular book.

It’s easy to get distracted by the tangles of irony of these cases: the immoral morality expert; the dishonesty expert who (at best) got duped by dishonesty. As amusing as the stories are, they also have rather grim consequences. No matter the subject area, and no matter how impressive the credentials, our trust in the experts keeps being betrayed.

And in some sense, this is a good thing. Scandals like this remind us to take nothing at face value. Nullius in verba, after all. In response to the new fraud revelations, Ariely wrote that he “did not test the data for irregularities, which after this painful lesson, I will start doing regularly”. Whether or not you trust Ariely’s research or his books any more, it’s good advice.


Stuart Ritchie is a psychologist and a Lecturer in the Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre at King’s College London

StuartJRitchie

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Francis MacGabhann
Francis MacGabhann
2 years ago

Yeah, “follow the science”, indeed. I’ve spent the last eighteenth months fighting off the urge to smack every smug, self-satisfied halfwit who goes around mouthing this mantra and simply refuses to get that “science” is not some living, tangible demigod that exists separately from the people who practise it.

Karl Juhnke
Karl Juhnke
2 years ago

I know what you mean.

Jane Watson
Jane Watson
2 years ago

I think ‘finding what you are looking for’ is the most well known pratfall in research (not usually deliberate of course). In the early 2000s I was advised, if I wanted to do a PhD, to research global warming. My subject was Psychology, which I said. The fellow student said ‘you’ll get your proposal accepted and will probably get funding’. I have often pondered this when I see the talking heads on TV, all diligent students of climate ‘science’…

Karl Juhnke
Karl Juhnke
2 years ago
Reply to  Jane Watson

Yes. I was sought out as a prospective upcoming lecturer and tutor until I started doing essays on female violence. I was warned that my career would be ruined etc unless I stopped looking at or talking about the aforementioned subject. I decided I would rather lose my career then spend my life rubbing shoulders with frauds as most of my fellow students agreed with me, but only off the record.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago

Is it fair to smear scientists, which to many would mean physicists, mathematicians, chemists, engineers etc, in the basis of some dodgy psychology professors?

Is it even fair to include them in the same category?

Martin Brumby
Martin Brumby
2 years ago

Well, a fraudulent engineer will be on difficult ground if the bridge he designs collapses.

That’s why there is usually checking procedures built in. Not least because no one is perfect and there is certainly such a thing as a genuine (but not normally deliberate) mistake.

Which is usually (but rarely) why a bridge does indeed collapse.

But don’t forget Feynman’s analysis of why a faulty ‘O’ ring design doomed the Apollo mission. Managerial bullying and some internal politics?

But what about those engineers who work on projects that are obviously wicked (gas chambers?) or which they must be aware are ridiculous, or at least ridiculously expensive? (Renewable energy schemes?)

Policy always claims to be based on science. Sorry, my mistake, …based on The Science.

Actually, how many things can you count that are based almost entirely on policy based evidence making?

Covid Lockdowns and “Anthropogenic” Climate Change for a start.

Brendan O'Leary
Brendan O'Leary
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Brumby

Perhaps the second most obvious difference is that engineers etc work in teams on critical projects whereas psychologists generally work alone

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

Noble cause corruption can poison either, surely?
Fraudulent scientists fabricate and misrepresent because they know they’re right. Other people need facts to persuade them, so here are some made-up facts. We all arrive at the same place, so that’s the right outcome even if it took a few lies to get here.

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago
Reply to  Martin Brumby

Whatever about covid lockdowns the science is pretty clear on Anthropogenic climate change. In fact there’s no way that greenhouse gases can’t warm the atmosphere.

And as for wind power and solar power, they obviously work too, although you may have problems with reliability of course. The science and engineering works.

Paula Williams
Paula Williams
2 years ago

Only the basic greenhouse principle is established. There is still no way to actually measure it, and the models’ predictability borders on the comedic. It is plain they are exaggerating for political effect (we know from Climategate how little they care about honesty and the scientific method).
And as for wind and solar, their inherent unreliability necessitates having very expensive backup for them, making their total cost 3-5 times the price of fossil fuel.

Christian Moon
Christian Moon
2 years ago

Looking at this purely in the abstract, how can we rule out second order effects that overwhelm the first order effect of increased GHGs, particularly CO2 which has such a strong interaction with the flourishing of plants and hence the dynamics of the water cycle, and of clouds of water vapour.
I ask only to remind you of how complex this modelling becomes, even from a very simple premise like the one you bring forward.

Bruce Liebert
BL
Bruce Liebert
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Brumby

“But don’t forget Feynman’s analysis of why a faulty ‘O’ ring design doomed the Apollo mission.”
Challenger, not Apollo…

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago

Pschycologists are not scientists and they don’t have scientific training. They merely use statistics to make their ideas look correct.

Social scientists are not scientists either. They read something and apply statistics to it. The statistics used are not even difficult maths – you could buy a book today and use the statistics next week.

The whole idea of these people is to get an easy degree and call themselves ‘scientists’. These seems to validate whatever they do. It makes them feel important. It makes money but it gives science a bad name.

Jane Watson
JW
Jane Watson
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

My first degree was a BA, but my Psychology Masters an MSc. I spent a full year doing stats and research methods before I was allowed to do the actual research. But you’re right, I don’t consider myself a ‘scientist’. However, I’m often underwhelmed by studies pumped out by ‘real’ scientists. One of my areas of interest is nutrition. Going back to Ancel Keys, the entire field is polluted with nonsense research, often funded by drug companies or the food industry (and I’m not antagonistic to either). The latest purveyor of rubbish research is the ‘plant based’ arm of the food industry. In line with the eco-warrior movement, we are bombarded by data distortion, attempting to persuade us that ‘real food’ (as eaten for millennia by our ancestors) will kill both us and the planet. Meanwhile, obesity and diabetes (arguably both caused by cereal-based, processed food diets) become endemic.

Last edited 2 years ago by Jane Watson
Franz Von Peppercorn
MB
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago
Reply to  Jane Watson

Yes, that’s not a science either. Physics and engineering (as applied sciences). That’s pretty much it. Maybe chemistry.

Heidi M
HM
Heidi M
2 years ago

I mean nutrition studies or at least the ones focused on physiology and/or genetics (rather than broad intervention/observation) are built on physics and chemistry given that those rules govern how the body works (for example metabolism). Many other fields are very much the same, just building on those principles in a specific context. So what is the line where it is no longer science?

Jonathan Andrews
Jonathan Andrews
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

I disagree with you on your point about their statistics not being difficult maths. Yes, easy enough to churn the handle and get some results but understanding what lies beneath is not Mickey Mouse

Franz Von Peppercorn
MB
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago

Yes the underlying mathematics of statistics is in fact fairly difficult. That said statistics is wide open to abuse.

Jonathan Bagley
JB
Jonathan Bagley
2 years ago

I agree. The problem is, there is now no requirement to understand what lies beneath. Every university academic has access to a myriad of statistical computing packages which can churn out a stream of papers on whatever is currently in vogue. I can guarantee, very few of the authors could pass a final year undergraduate examination in Statistical Inference or Design of Experiments. Fifty years this wasn’t the case, and nobody would waste a year of their life, involving huge calculation or computing resources, on a claim that, for example, substituting potassium salt for sodium salt might be correlated with a small reduction in strokes.

Jacob Mason
Jacob Mason
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

Who gets to be called “scientist” seems like a matter of definition, not something self-evident.

Thomas Aquinas wrote a short document, commonly called “The Division and Method of the Sciences”, where he makes the point that people seek knowledge about all sorts of things, and the kind of knowledge you will be able to aquire depends on the kind of thing you are investigating.

Sure, psychology doesn’t have the same precision as physics, but insofar as it can be a systematically organized pursuit of knowledge about something real, I would call research psychologists “scientists”.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

After what we have witnessed is it ok to smear some epidemiologists, virologists and the like? After all, we have found compromised scientists hiding under many rocks.

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
2 years ago

Yeah. Seeing the antics of epidemiologists has actually increased my sympathy for psychologists a little bit. Problems in the psych literature always seem to be relatively subtle ones of the form, if you do some statistical analysis on this dataset it looks probably made up, or, this individual paper looks fine at first but it turns out not to replicate, or, a whole lot of papers look OK independently but when you cluster them they all have P values just under the arbitrary threshold.
OK. Real problems, indeed. At least there are psychologists who aren’t afraid to talk about them and criticize their own field in clear terms, like Ritchie. I don’t think psychology or the social sciences are improving due to this criticism, but, at least it’s there.
Epidemiology papers are drastically worse. No fancypants statistical analysis of data tables is needed here, just reading the papers and having common sense is sufficient to detect the problems. Replication is irrelevant because they don’t do any actual studies to begin with, except that wait, it is relevant, because at least their model code should produce the same answers when different people run it, and yet they fail to achieve even that! Psychologists make findings that don’t replicate, epidemiologists make predictions that don’t replicate! How pathetic is that?
And that’s just scratching the surface. The whole field is complete junk all the way down and has been for decades.
It’d be nice if Ritchie would turn his magnifying glass onto this field at some point but sadly I expect he won’t, as the academic taboo against criticizing people across fields seems remarkably strong. He may feel he has his hands full trying to help just psychology.

Jonathan Bagley
JB
Jonathan Bagley
2 years ago
Reply to  Norman Powers

“Epidemiology papers are drastically worse. No fancypants statistical analysis of data tables is needed here, just reading the papers and having common sense is sufficient to detect the problems.”
If you truly think that, you are deluded. I know some of these epidemiologists personally and have supervised final year ug projects on mathematical models for epidemics. That doesn’t make me anything like an expert compared to them, but is enough for me to know that common sense will not get you very far.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

Locking people up for almost two years leaves a lot of time on ones hands and a lot of that time was spent checking up on ‘the science’ and the motivations of scientists. I would say science in general is not regarded in the same esteem as it used to be.

Peter LR
Peter LR
2 years ago

So how are we to view the revelation today of secret arrangements to vaccinate 12 year olds without needing parental permission? Is this ‘science’ or pressure politics?

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

Politics. The science would be a cost benefit analysis. Which in the case of 12 years would mean no vaccine.

Last edited 2 years ago by Franz Von Peppercorn
James Joyce
James Joyce
2 years ago

An interesting article, but perhaps Corona offers a better example. As an occasional commentator on the BBC, I tried to introduce the phrase “Trust the science, not the scientists.” The BBC’s woke political agenda is relevant here–why would anyone pay the license fee?–as recently “scientists” have now concluded that the science does not support getting a booster shot. The “science” supporting this view is that it is the personal political view of the “scientist” that it is immoral, as it goes against “equity” that some in the West get a third vaccine while many in the developing world, including health care providers, have not yet had a first shot.
May I suggest that this is a legitimate view? I strongly disagree with it, but I disagree with a lot of things. What is absolutely wrong, however, is that these “scientists” have distorted the science and used their positions–“I am an epidemiologist and this is my view….” when it is a personal, political view, not at all supported by the science. In short, these people are frauds, and I question everything they say. It is disgusting that BBC continually gives them a platform to spew these lies.
Trust the science, not the scientists. Maybe I can popularize this here…..

Paula Williams
P.
Paula Williams
2 years ago
Reply to  James Joyce

The trouble is, you can only get the science from the scientists.
And while you can see what they did study, you’ll never know what they didn’t study so as not to challenge their preconceptions or directives from their managers.

Ken Charman
Ken Charman
2 years ago

Social science is not science. End of.

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
2 years ago

Never trust a government funded scientist or any company that has government contracts based on its research. Pfizer comes immediately to mind. But also never trust what the media has to say about science.
It is up to the scientists to offer proof and for us to ensure that they explain the proof so that even the dimmest of us can understand. Unfortunately, that is very difficult.
A classic example is the MMR-Autism scandal. Andrew Wakefield was the leader on this work but he had a team of people and not one of them objected to the publication. However, I think all but one withdrew their support when the fraud was identified. If they had objected during the study they would probably have lost their job. The work was published in the Lancet and the editor continued to support Wakefield for 12 years after the fraud was identified and only then did he withdraw the research paper. I assume that very few people read the Lancet and it was the main stream media that promoted the fraud, even though most professionals did not support it. Tony Blair added to the fear about the vaccination when he refused to say if his son had been vaccinated. Concern about a possible link with Autism still exists.
Most of us would not know about research publications if it wasn’t for the media and they are the ones we really should not trust, as their propaganda on the climate reveals. We should be able to trust politicians to ensure that they protect us from fraud, but they are worse than the media.
Climate science is easy to expose as a fraud. Look at any temperature graph and the year it starts and then find one starting at an earlier date and you will see how data is selected to prove something that is not happening. Temperatures were higher in the early part of the 20th than they are now. The media reports of the time confirm this. Look at the forecasts that are made that never materialise. Al Gore forecast that there would be no ice at the North Pole by I 2013. There are many more similar incorrect forecasts. These issues don’t need any knowledge of science.
Therefore, it doesn’t really matter whether scientists can be trusted, because we cannot trust the media and politicians and most people are not capable of any rational thinking to discover the lies.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

So you think we should trust private companies on science? the tobacco industry on lung cancer? Coal producers on climate change? Purdue Pharma on opioid addiction?

Paula Williams
Paula Williams
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Worst of all is government on climate change – they have a vested interest in fomenting alarm, and they spend thousands of times more money on it.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

Pray what is the difference between the tobacco industry and the climate change industry?

Last edited 2 years ago by Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Saul D
SD
Saul D
2 years ago

In the arts, the rule is to follow the lead of the ‘experts’ – so they’re always quoting people or deferring to someone else’s opinion (the current x-ism is a socially constructed good built from expert consensus).
In science, experts are only expert as far as they are able to show you the data and explain the method. You might defer to them as experts to save time, but every expert must be able to show the data and methods that underpin their opinion. Anyone not sharing data or method is just guessing.

Last edited 2 years ago by Saul D
Derrick Byford
DB
Derrick Byford
2 years ago

There have been 1000’s of climate “science” papers claiming we are heading for catastrophe using worst case model projections based on RCP 8.5 – mistakenly (or fraudulently) described as the “business as usual” scenario for emissions. This is a scenario which is now widely accepted (by 97% of scientists?) as being ridiculous, if not impossible. Will any of these papers or the consequent fear-mongering headlines be withdrawn (rhetorical question)? Roger Pielke Jr has written extensively on this particular deception.

Franz Von Peppercorn
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago

So, where were the scientists here? I think we can still trust physicists and engineers.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
ER
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago

Climate change “scientists”?

Last edited 2 years ago by Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Franz Von Peppercorn
MB
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago

The article was about psychology which isn’t climate science.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago

They masquerade as scientists. Some even profess to be physicists.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Franz Von Peppercorn
MB
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago

Why are you even mentioning climate change here? Climate scientists are not physicists as it happens. If you have empirical evidence that Einstein, Feynman or Von Neumann were incorrect let’s hear it.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago

James E Hansen obtained a B.A. in Physics and Mathematics in 1963, an M.S. in Astronomy in 1965 and a Ph.D. in Physics in 1967

Andrew McDonald
AM
Andrew McDonald
2 years ago

Baffled by people downvoting this simple statement! Is it incorrect? Or do you downvote on UnHerd if you just don’t particularly like something? Odd.

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
2 years ago

All comment systems have this problem. The meaning of up/down votes is left undefined so some people interpret it as indicating general comment quality and others just use it as an agree/disagree button.

Paula Williams
Paula Williams
2 years ago

Probably because it is surely the most tainted and unreliable science of all.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
2 years ago

“…Bestselling popular books spreading untrue and unverifiable claims to thousands of readers…”

Hey, if such behaviour is good enough for the Vatican for centuries, I’m sure it’s good enough for the odd scamming Harvard professor.

Franz Von Peppercorn
MB
Franz Von Peppercorn
2 years ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Yawn.

Paula Williams
P.
Paula Williams
2 years ago

Making all the above look utterly trivial is of course today’s climate ‘science’, where endemic alarmist bias and cheating characterises that profession from top to bottom, as overwhelmingly revealed in the Climategate expose and ensuing official coverups.
This though is about the vested interest of the funder rather than psychology. Government selects who and what to fund based on the type of ‘result’ they promise – ie which best argues for more government (taxes, bureaucracies, controls).

Last edited 2 years ago by Paula Williams
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
ER
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Paula Williams

Absolutely right and scientists are right at the centre of it

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
2 years ago

An extract from E.M. Forster’s What I Believe written in 1939:
“Democracy…is less hateful than other contemporary forms of government, and to that extent it deserves our support. It does start from the assumption that the individual is important, and that all types are needed to make a civilization. It does not divide its citizens into the bossers and the bossed – as an efficiency regime tends to do. The people I admire most are those who are sensitive and want to create something or discover something, and do not see life in terms of power, and such people get more of a chance under a democracy than elsewhere. They found religions, great or small, or they produce literature and art, or they do disinterested scientific research, or they may be what is called “ordinary people”, who are creative in their private lives, bring up their children decently, for instance, or help their neighbours. All these people need to express themselves; they cannot do so unless society allows them liberty to do so, and the society which allows them most liberty is a democracy. Democracy has another merit. It allows criticism, and if there is not public criticism there are bound to be hushed-up scandals. That is why I believe in the press, despite all its lies and vulgarity…”
How far we have fallen.

Joe Wein
JW
Joe Wein
2 years ago

It seems clear that scientists are human beings first and scientists second. All of the biases, motives self-deceptions and dishonesties that exist in human nature, exist in scientists also.

Jonathan Bagley
Jonathan Bagley
2 years ago

Part of the problem is the proliferation of scientific journals and the sheer number of papers published. They can’t be adequately refereed and there is also the blurring, with papers deposited on ArXiv prior to possible publication, of what is a genuine refereed publication.
The proliferation of journals and papers results from universities now being businesses and their academic employees performances being measured by papers published. A joint authorship, with four or five others, just once a year, can save one from being reclassified as “teaching only”, with a comensurate far higher teaching workload. Or, for those at the start of their careers, not being granted tenure, in the USA; or, in the UK, a permanent post.
Like drug taking in sport, or teachers inflating A level grades and altering sats tests,it’s the inevitable result of human nature colliding with desperation and opportunity.

Human Being
KB
Human Being
2 years ago

Brian Wansink is another example (coincidentally, also of the psychology/behavioural economics persuasion). Many of his publications have significantly influenced public health initiatives on obesity, despite subsequently being retracted.

Douglas McCallum
Douglas McCallum
2 years ago

Get your facts correct, indeed. Duke is a justifiably well-regarded university – but it most definitely is not Ivy League. It is highly ranked but for both historical and geographical reasons it has never been considered part of the “Ivy League”. That is a term which has always applied to a limited set of older universities in the North-East of the USA: Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, etc.