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Asked at Nautilus: Should scientists publish their personal biases?

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Scales of justice free stock photo public domain pictures clip art From Nautilus blogger Brian Gallagher:

What if scientists were more transparent about their values? Would their results and recommendations be better received and more trusted if they acknowledged any relevant personal beliefs that may have shaped their research? That’s what Kevin C. Elliott and colleagues, authors of the PLoS ONE study, sought to determine with some online experiments. They recruited 494 U.S.-participants from Amazon Mechanical Turk (a “convenience sample”—more “male, younger, more highly educated, and more liberal” than a representative sample) to take a survey; it was advertised vaguely as “Your Attitudes about Important Social Issues in the US” to solicit a broad cross-section of people not particularly interested in, or opinionated about, the issues discussed in the experiments.

In each experiment, participants registered their impressions of the scientist and their conclusions—were they competent, credible, expert, honest, intelligent, sincere, or trustworthy?—on a 7-point scale. Elliott and his team concluded that disclosing a scientist’s values doesn’t boost his or her credibility or the trustworthiness of the conclusion reached. In fact, the additional transparency can reduce them! More.

Actually, doesn’t “disclosing a scientist’s values” just make the whole process more honest?

In reality, the biggest problem today is not whether scientists are trusted but whether they should be.

Keep up to date with Retraction Watch

See also: Censored researchers: Nutrition is a “degenerating” research paradigm. It’s an interesting fact about post-modern society that one often hears commentators obsessing about why the public “hates” or “fears” science. These claims are simply incoherent with the fact that the public actually knows that many things are going wrong.

2 Replies to “Asked at Nautilus: Should scientists publish their personal biases?

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    This is a bad idea, and I strongly suspect it’s a deliberate bad idea. 98% of “scientists” hold the same identical precisely orthodox beliefs about everything. Encouraging confession will show up the heretics in sharp contrast so they can be burned far more easily.

  2. 2
    Seversky says:

    A scientist’s personal beliefs should be irrelevant to their published research which should stand or fall on its scientific merits.

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