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From Slate: Why more rigor in science might do more harm than good

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170405_SCI_RigorMortisSloppyScienceBook From Daniel Engber, reviewing Richard Harris’s Rigor Mortis at Slate:

Rigor may not always serve the public good. In biomedicine, everyone is looking for positive results—meaningful, affirmative experiments that could one day help support a novel treatment for disease. (That’s true both for scientists who study biomedicine at universities and those employed by giant pharmaceutical companies.) In that context, rigor serves to check scientists’ ambition and enthusiasm: It reins in their wild oversteps and helps to keep experiments on track.

But not every field of research enjoys the same harmony of goals. In the sciences most relevant to policy and regulation—such as climatology, toxicology, and nutrition—academics’ focus on making new discoveries is counterbalanced by another group of researchers, funded by commercial interests, who want to do the opposite. In these fields, significant results are often used to justify government regulation, of what we put in packaged food, for example, or how we mine for natural gas. Scientists for industry, then, are paid to undermine them. As a rule, they look for nothings in the data, sift for signs of noneffects, and valorize unsuccessful replications.More.

What about making evidence matter again? As opposed to ideology?

See also: How naturalism rots science from the head down

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