How to Spot Bad Science

If you're a regular at this blog, you'll have picked up on my favourite theme - bad science (and bad science journalism) in the world of psychology and neuroscience. The anonymous author of the Compound Chem blog has put together a rather splendid bucket list of issues to look out for when reading science news, that fits in so well with the Big Think colour scheme that I couldn't help but repost it. You can download the PDF here which is released under a creative commons licence.


Personally, my only gripe with the poster is point five on speculative language - which as Girl, Interrupting over at Occams Typewriter rightly points out, you can expect to find in good research as much as bad:

Saying ‘we see this’ and ‘we think this means that’ is perfectly acceptable in scientific literature. In fact it is the bread and butter of many research publications. I am far more dubious of a study which says ‘we see this, therefore it absolutely must mean that’

After you've had a good read of the poster, I recommend checking out the ensuing discussion over at Girl, Interrupting's post and on the original post at Compound Chem.

NB: For those who didn't get the reference in the cover image, here's an amusing explainer from the JAYFK blog on why you should be especially careful not to tread in bad science if you ever find yourself on content farms such as Science Daily.

To keep up to date with this blog you can follow Neurobonkers on TwitterFacebookRSS or join the mailing list

Cover Image by Gil C.

Higher ed isn’t immune to COVID-19, but the crisis will make it stronger

The pandemic reminds us that our higher education system, with all its flaws, remains a key part of our strategic reserve.

Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • America's higher education system is under great scrutiny as it adapts to a remote-learning world. These criticisms will only make higher ed more innovative.
  • While there are flaws in the system and great challenges ahead, higher education has adapted quickly to allow students to continue learning. John Katzman, CEO of online learning organization Noodle Partners, believes this is cause for optimism not negativity.
  • Universities are pillars of scientific research on the COVID-19 frontlines, they bring facts in times of uncertainty and fake news, and, in a bad economy, education is a personal floatation device.
Keep reading Show less

An ancient device too advanced to be real gives up its secrets at last

Researchers present what they’ve learned now that they can read the tiny text inside the Antikythera mechanism.

Exploded view of Antikythera mechanism (Peulle/Wikimedia)
Surprising Science

Though it it seemed to be just a corroded lump of some sort when it was found in a shipwreck off the coast of Greece near Antikythera in 1900, in 1902 archaeologist Valerios Stais, looking at the gear embedded in it, guessed that what we now call the “Antikythera mechanism" was some kind of astronomy-based clock. He was in the minority—most agreed that something so sophisticated must have entered the wreck long after its other 2,000-year-old artifacts. Nothing like it was believed to have existed until 1,500 years later.

Keep reading Show less

Hyper-innovation: COVID-19 will forever change the way we teach kids

The institutional barriers that have often held creative teaching back are being knocked down by the coronavirus era.

Future of Learning
  • Long-held structures in the education system, like classroom confines and schedules, have held back innovation for a long time, says education leader Richard Culatta.
  • In the coronavirus era, we have been able to shake some of those rigid structures loose, making way for creativity and, ultimately, a more open mindset.
  • When creativity and technology combine, learning can become so much more than delivering content to a student. Culatta gives two stunning examples: one of a biotech class, and another involving a student discovering a star.
Keep reading Show less

Algorithms associating appearance and criminality have a dark past

We'd like to think that judging people's worth based on the shape of their head is a practice that's behind us.

PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP via Getty Images
Culture & Religion

'Phrenology' has an old-fashioned ring to it. It sounds like it belongs in a history book, filed somewhere between bloodletting and velocipedes.

Keep reading Show less
Scroll down to load more…