From molecular cancer biologist Ahmed Alkhateeb at Aeon:
Science is in the midst of a data crisis. Last year, there were more than 1.2 million new papers published in the biomedical sciences alone, bringing the total number of peer-reviewed biomedical papers to over 26 million. However, the average scientist reads only about 250 papers a year. Meanwhile, the quality of the scientific literature has been in decline. Some recent studies found that the majority of biomedical papers were irreproducible.
The twin challenges of too much quantity and too little quality are rooted in the finite neurological capacity of the human mind. Scientists are deriving hypotheses from a smaller and smaller fraction of our collective knowledge and consequently, more and more, asking the wrong questions, or asking ones that have already been answered. Also, human creativity seems to depend increasingly on the stochasticity of previous experiences – particular life events that allow a researcher to notice something others do not. Although chance has always been a factor in scientific discovery, it is currently playing a much larger role than it should.
One promising strategy to overcome the current crisis is to integrate machines and artificial intelligence in the scientific process. More.
No. The mountain of data is not the main problem. The main problem is perverse incentives. Artificial intelligence will only carry out the wishes of its programmers; it can’t be better than them.
Also, keep up to date with Retraction Watch
See also: Breaking: National Academy of Sciences notices research integrity problem.
Unfortunately, I (O’Leary for News) have been covering these “sweeping reviews” for probably fifteen years. Mostly, they amount to clucking noises followed by sweeping the problems under the carpet when all is quiet. The kinds of conversations people would need to have, in order to make a real difference, are conversations few are ready for.
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