Thursday, November 3, 2011

Diminishes us all

The New York Times reports on the disreputable and fraudulent actions of a Dutch researcher.
A well-known psychologist in the Netherlands whose work has been published widely in professional journals falsified data and made up entire experiments, an investigating committee has found. Experts say the case exposes deep flaws in the way science is done in a field, psychology, that has only recently earned a fragile respectability.
The identified offenses may have occurred in another discipline and another country, but they damage the scientific enterprise everywhere.

In principle, all of the studies that scientists conduct and publish should be replicable. In practice though, replication rarely occurs, is often impossible, and seldom gets attention or credit if it is conducted. Because of this, the modest amounts of credibility and respect that scientific conclusions muster owe greatly to scientists' reputations for reporting research accurately. Put another way, much (possibly too much) of science relies on trust.

Sadly, researchers like this particular Dutch psychologist treat science as a confidence game. Equally sadly, the psychologist has a lot of company in the scientific community.