“Einstein, We Have a Problem” – The problem with so much science today is it isn’t true

How science is structured when it works, and what we have been doing for the past 50 years, and maybe why so much of it is trash. Saving Science – The New Atlantis

The referenced article is long, but worth your attention. Or I think so anyway. What we have been doing for the past 50 years isn’t working in a lot ways. We haven’t cured cancer. We are losing our ability to fight disease. And spending a lot of money – taxpayer and otherwise – and not seeing much return on investment. Not in a lot of places.

The science world has been buffeted for nearly a decade by growing revelations that major bodies of scientific knowledge, published in peer-reviewed papers, may simply be wrong. Among recent instances: a cancer cell line used as the basis for over a thousand published breast cancer research studies was revealed to be actually a skin cancer cell line; a biotechnology company was able to replicate only six out of fifty-three “landmark” published studies it sought to validate; a test of more than one hundred potential drugs for treating amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in mice was unable to reproduce any of the positive findings that had been reported from previous studies; a compilation of nearly one hundred fifty clinical trials for therapies to block human inflammatory response showed that even though the therapies had supposedly been validated using mouse model experiments, every one of the trials failed in humans; a statistical assessment of the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to map human brain function indicated that up to 70 percent of the positive findings reported in approximately 40,000 published fMRI studies could be false; and an article assessing the overall quality of basic and preclinical biomedical research estimated that between 75 and 90 percent of all studies are not reproducible.

The problems are numerous. Some underlying assumptions about how science works are just plain wrong. And, as the litany above indicates, the system of science is not self-repairing. (All those discredited papers and research projects are probably referenced in other research papers.)

One thought on ““Einstein, We Have a Problem” – The problem with so much science today is it isn’t true

  1. Thanks for the link to that. Just started reading it.

    It’s an incredibly important story. I’ve talked about it once or twice, but it needs more coverage. Right now, when a news story leads with, “scientists announced today”, people pay attention. There’s still that aura of respectability about it. Kids are coming out of school thinking of science as “always right”, rather than almost always (80% of the time) wrong.


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