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I Predict A Riot
Almost a year ago I posted a blog post titled 'A Yale Professor’s One Man Rampage Against PloS, the Internet and a Belgian Research Group', covering the case of a respected researcher who became very upset about a study replicating his work and finding a negative outcome. This may have only been a foreshock, one of the first casualties of a new wave of replications that is beginning to shake the foundations of the field of psychology.
Psychology is historically a field in which replications are rare. Sought after journals with a high impact factor typically refuse to publish replications and until recently, there has been little to no incentive for researchers to conduct research which will not further their careers and likely would not even ever get read. Thus negative findings have vanished from existence while positive findings - which may be the exception rather than the rule, receive all the attention. This is a problem that has become known as the File Drawer Effect in the world of psychology. Ben Goldacre’s recent book Bad Pharma discusses the prevalence of the same problem in medicine - where the problem has extremely grave implications. I can't recommend this book more highly, you can help fix the problem in medicine by signing a petition which already has 20,000 signatures, calling for all clinical trial data be published.
Back to psychology, a growing collective of researchers working on The Reproducibility Project, have been stepping forward to replicate studies in the field of social psychology. On Thursday The Chronicle published a fantastic article discussing the situation. The article appears to cite the headline of my blogpost describing the "one-man rampage" and includes an interview with the researcher involved - who has now taken down his offending blog post (sadly also consigning to the history books - or not as the case may be - the extensive discourse between researchers regarding the study, that appeared in the comments under the post). Another article in The Chronicle, published last year describes the background to the replication situation.
An extensive special issue of the journal Psychological Science titled a 'Special Section on Replicability in Psychological Science: A Crisis of Confidence?' (still open access) describes the situation in academic detail, referring to the "acrimonious dust-up in science magazines and blogs" and asks "is there currently a crisis of confidence in psychological science reflecting an unprecedented level of doubt among practitioners about the reliability of research findings in the field?" (Pashler et al, 2012) [PDF]. Fellow anonymous blogger Neuroskeptic provides an enlightening humorous explanation of the problems currently affecting much of the world of science:
The special issue concludes with a report from John Ioannidis on "Why Science Is Not Necessarily Self-Correcting" [PDF] citing as an example, how the nonsense science of phrenology dominated neuropsychology in the 19th century. Ioannidis refers to the Library of Alexandria, the largest library of the ancient world, which was destroyed more than five times by Roman wars, Christian mobs and Arab conquests - and poses the startling question: Could it be possible that information equivalent in size to the library of Alexandria disappears every few minutes?
"Currently, there are petabytes of scientific information produced on a daily basis and millions of papers are being published annually. In most scientific fields, the vast majority of the collected data, protocols, and analyses are not available and/or disappear soon after or even before publication. If one tries to identify the raw data and protocols of papers published only 20 years ago, it is likely that very little is currently available. Even for papers published this week, readily available raw data, protocols, and analysis codes would be the exception rather than the rule. The large majority of currently published papers are mostly synoptic advertisements of the actual research. One cannot even try to reproduce the results based on what is available in the published word."
According to Ioannidis, we are currently passing through an extraordinary age of perverse incentives in science. The prime motive of researchers is placed firmly on new discoveries and chasing statistical significance at all cost. Ioannidis describes a nightmare scenario, "Planet F345, Andromeda Galaxy, Year 3045268" in which the entire process of science is distorted by numerous perverse incentives placed on researchers by dictatorial journal publishers and financial officers "recruited after successful careers as real estate agents, managers in supermarket chains, or employees in other corporate structures where they have proven that they can cut cost and make more money". Ioannidis proposes that if we do not change our ways, then planet F345 in the year 3045268 is where we are headed. Ioannidis goes as far as to speculate whether there is a "chance that wrong and inefficient medicine is currently becoming a major disaster for humans and human civilization". Ioannidis suggests there is now "an excess of statistically significant results in the literature indicative of strong biases" with "the vast majority of analyses in psychological science fine tuned to obtain a desired result". Could it really be the case that much of the science on which we base our medicine and our understanding of the mind is founded on inflated results based on a wild goose chase for statistical significance, and that these results could not be replicated?
We will soon see the publication of the wave of replications which are being conducted by the coalition of researchers participating in the Open Science Framework's Reproducibility Project and we will soon discover the proportion of papers - all taken from leading social psychology journals - that replicate successfully. In medicine Ben Goldacre's campaign for the publication of clinical trial data has gained the support of the Royal Statistical Society, The British Library, PLoS, The British Medical Journal, Cochrane, The Medical Research Council, BioMed Central... the list goes on. If you ever plan to take advantage of evidence based medicine in your life - that means you - you'd do well to sign the petition.
If you are a researcher worried by these developments, you can cover your back by publicly determining your sample size, variables and conditions before starting your trial, properly detailing your methods so your work can be replicated accurately and publishing your trial data in open repositories such as the Open Science Framework and FigShare so your data can be independently analysed and potentially replicated; and please, please consider publishing your results in open access journals so the rest of the world can read your hard work. We may be approaching the dawn of a fantastic new open era of psychology, science and medicine but this is only likely to happen on a broad scale if institutions address the incentive structures researchers work under.
Learn more about the movement to replicate science:
What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
Scientists find that bursts of gamma rays may exceed the speed of light and cause time-reversibility.
- Astrophysicists propose that gamma-ray bursts may exceed the speed of light.
- The superluminal jets may also be responsible for time-reversibility.
- The finding doesn't go against Einstein's theory because this effect happens in the jet medium not a vacuum.
Jet bursting out of a blazar. Black-hole-powered galaxies called blazars are the most common sources detected by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
Cosmic death beams: Understanding gamma ray bursts<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cu2knVEk" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="c6cfd20fdf31c82cb206ade8ce21ba3f"> <div id="botr_cu2knVEk_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cu2knVEk-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Philosophers have been asking the question for hundreds of years. Now neuroscientists are joining the quest to find out.
- The debate over whether or not humans have free will is centuries old and ongoing. While studies have confirmed that our brains perform many tasks without conscious effort, there remains the question of how much we control and when it matters.
- According to Dr. Uri Maoz, it comes down to what your definition of free will is and to learning more about how we make decisions versus when it is ok for our brain to subconsciously control our actions and movements.
- "If we understand the interplay between conscious and unconscious," says Maoz, "it might help us realize what we can control and what we can't."
Puerto Rico's iconic telescope facilitated important scientific discoveries while inspiring young scientists and the public imagination.
- The Arecibo Observatory's main telescope collapsed on Tuesday morning.
- Although officials had been planning to demolish the telescope, the accident marked an unceremonious end to a beloved astronomical tool.
- The Arecibo radio telescope has facilitated many discoveries in astronomy, including the mapping of near-Earth asteroids and the detection of exoplanets.
Bradley Rivera via twitter.com<p>In 1963, the concave dish was built into a natural sinkhole on the northern coast of Puerto Rico. The location was <a href="https://www.space.com/20984-arecibo-observatory.html" target="_blank">picked because it was near the equator,</a> providing scientists a clear view of planets passing overhead, and also of the ionosphere, which is the uniquely reactive layer of Earth's upper atmosphere where the northern lights form.</p><p>Since its construction, scientists have used the Arecibo telescope to map near-Earth asteroids, detect gravitational waves, study pulsars, detect exoplanets and <a href="https://www.seti.org/goodbye-arecibo" target="_blank">search for alien civilizations</a>, among other projects. Here's a brief look at some of the discoveries and accomplishments made using the Arecibo telescope:</p><ul><li>1964: Astronomer <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Pettengill" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gordon Pettengill</a> discovers that Mercury's rotation period is 59 days, significantly shorter than the previous prediction of 88 days.</li><li>1974: Physicists Russell Alan Hulse and Joseph Hooton Taylor Jr. discovers the first binary pulsar, for which they won a Nobel Prize in Physics.</li><li>1974: Scientists use the telescope to transmit the "Arecibo message" to <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Globular_Cluster_in_Hercules" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">globular star cluster M13</a>. The message, when translated into image form, contains basic information about humanity and human knowledge: the numbers one to 10, a map of our solar system, an illustration of a human being, and the atomic numbers of certain elements.</li><li>1989: Scientists use the telescope to image an asteroid for the first time.</li><li>1992: Astronomers Alex Wolszczan and Dale Frail become the first to discover exoplanets.</li></ul>
The Google-owned company developed a system that can reliably predict the 3D shapes of proteins.