Behind Science Fraud, Chapter 2

We’ve been following the story of the apparently fraudulent article in Science about whether people will change their mind about gay marriage after a short conversation with a real live gay person (I guess watching Will & Grace and Modern Family reruns just doesn’t quite do the trick), as well as yesterday’s excellent op-ed in the NY Times about the pervasive problem of scientific journals and media credulity. Tomorrow’s New York Times extend the story with an excellent news feature, “Maligned Study on Gay Unions Is Shaking Trust.”

Here are the highlights:

The case has shaken not only the community of political scientists but also public trust in the way the scientific establishment vets new findings. It raises broad questions about the rigor of rules that guide a leading academic’s oversight of a graduate student’s research and of the peer review conducted of that research by Science. . .

Critics said the intense competition by graduate students to be published in prestigious journals, weak oversight by academic advisers and the rush by journals to publish studies that will attract attention too often led to sloppy and even unethical research methods.

I’m sure this never happens in climate science. . .  Anyway, to continue:

“You don’t get a faculty position at Princeton by publishing something in the Journal Nobody-Ever-Heard-Of,” Dr. Oransky said. Is being lead author on a big study published in Science “enough to get a position in a prestigious university?” he asked, then answered: “They don’t care how well you taught. They don’t care about your peer reviews. They don’t care about your collegiality. They care about how many papers you publish in major journals.”

But since the “major journals” are so often captured by an “in-group” with a narrow ideology or favoritism toward certain kinds of methodology, maybe this is one of the things wrong with universities today.

Kudos to the NY Times for excellent reporting.