April 17, 2012

Science ... isn't always so sciency!

For scientists, philosophers, and "scientific skeptics" who sometimes go rowing in the waters of scientism, this should give you pause: Whether from fraud, error or other reasons, the number of scientific papers needing retraction is rising, and rising exponentially.

Part of it's the general publish-or-perish issue. But, remember when that was laughed at by scientists among New Lit English majors and such? Hmm, shoe on the other foot now, perhaps. And, English majors never were grant-dependent.

And another is increasing numbers of Ph.D.s from abroad, even as the naive in the science world, possibly with a foot in the business world, too, like Bora Zivkovic, continue to believe the lie that we need more STEM graduates. Those two are related, of course; the publish-or-perish has more urgency either if you're looking over your shoulder at New Delhi OR trying to wedge your shoulder in from a bachelor's degree program in New Delhi.

Here's another, possibly much bigger reason why, but kind of related to No. 2:
University laboratories count on a steady stream of grants from the government and other sources. The National Institutes of Health accepts a much lower percentage of grant applications today than in earlier decades. At the same time, many universities expect scientists to draw an increasing part of their salaries from grants, and these pressures have influenced how scientists are promoted. 
Ahh, the university as business model nears its hypercapitalistic slouching toward Wall Street. Always follow the money.

And, that means that the ethics of science isn't so exalted either.

And, per research into Millenials, Occupyers, etc., one wonders if some of this, especially on the fraud angle, isn't a generational thing.

That said, read the whole story; the two scientists cited throughout have some specific suggestions for how to change this problem.

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