Judith Curry, head of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, has enraged many by trying to put evidence first at a time when respect for evidence is losing out in science to respect for correct thoughts and attitudes. Referring to the story that another Nobelist recently has denounced peer review, she notes: The pressure for an academic prior to publish in order to get tenure is immense; I am dismayed when the primary criteria is to count publications, look at the impact factor of the journals, and look at the H-index (citations). It is only post-tenure that an academic can ponder longer range and seriously difficult or risky projects. And few do this, since funding for such projects is very difficult to obtain; too many grant proposals are written for research that is already well underway with pretty much guaranteed outcomes.
In short, in many fields, one can’t afford to publish anything other than “the usual” either before or after tenure. So …
So what does all this produce? Research that dots i’s and crosses t’s, and that promotes conformity of thought.
Of course most research isn’t gibberish but—don’t be fooled—the system is in deep, non-self-correcting trouble when this stuff is happening at all. Put another way: Would you be satisfied if at the local hospital, the operating room procedure was sterile except for, maybe 2%? Why not? How about, a leak is always a problem. Ignoring it is a bigger one.
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