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The “natural selection” of bad science?


From Hannah Devlin at U.K. Guardian:

To thrive in the cut-throat world of academia, scientists are incentivised to publish surprising findings frequently, the study suggests – despite the risk that such findings are “most likely to be wrong”.

Paul Smaldino, a cognitive scientist who led the work at the University of California, Merced, said: “As long as the incentives are in place that reward publishing novel, surprising results, often and in high-visibility journals above other, more nuanced aspects of science, shoddy practices that maximise one’s ability to do so will run rampant.”

The paper comes as psychologists and biomedical scientists are grappling with an apparent replication crisis, in which many high profile results have been shown to be unreliable. More.

It’s not “natural” selection. It’s not intelligent design either. It’s what happens when people follow a well-worn intellectual path without caring what lies at the end of the road.

See also: Ioannidis again, on misleading meta-analyses We live in curious times. So many mediocrities waving pompoms for “science,” demanding “faith in science” amid a sea of scandals. The worst part is, people will have faith in it, which tends to make the system unreformable.

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