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"Science Needs Vigilantes" - blog post by Neuroskeptic

Discussion in 'Other Health News and Research' started by Dolphin, Dec 31, 2013.

  1. Dolphin

    Dolphin Senior Member

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    article continues at: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/neuroskeptic/2013/12/31/publish-damned
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  2. Simon

    Simon

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    I liked this:
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  3. rosie26

    rosie26 moderate ME

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    I found the comments after the blog interesting. Neuroskeptic appears to believe in climate change and didn't like a commenter applying the same vigilante towards climate change papers. Is he only part for vigilante. ?
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2014
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  4. alex3619

    alex3619 Senior Member

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    One issue you see a lot is people jumping on stuff, playing vigilante, but having no idea what they are talking about. They also tend to support each other, like a cult. So they can pick on stuff, like climate change, using irrelevant but appealing arguments (to the poorly informed). This happens particularly on topics with some uncertainty, high global impact, and vested interests promoting the alternatives. Climate change fits this, but then so does genetic engineering of food and other topics. So it pays to be as sceptical of the sceptics as you are the scientists, and checking this stuff out wastes time and energy.

    To be clear neuroskeptic is focused on scientific papers and vigilance.

    In case anyone has doubt on my position, I am fairly sure that some climate change papers would be distorted, biased etc., just as in any other field with high uncertainty. The big issue with climate change is the degree of uncertainty , and our limitations with modelling. We don't have any spare worlds we can experiment on, there is a limit to what scientists can do using computational models. Most criticism of climate change focuses on the uncertainty, but in doing so they often downplay the risk assessment.

    Psychiatry on the other hand is under-criticized. Its entrenched and supported by factors outside of psychiatry. We need many more sceptical critics of psychiatric research.

    I would also argue that economics is at least as bad as psychiatry, though not technically a science. Its also highly entrenched and protected, and governments stake our futures on it.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2013
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  5. biophile

    biophile Places I'd rather be.

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    Unfortunately, the article seems to be about outright scientific misconduct, rather than questionable methodology.

    Why are there not more cases of exposed outright fraud in CFS research, being the backwater field that it is? It seems highly unlikely that CFS researchers stand out as more honest than researchers in other fields. On the other hand, fraudsters looking for glory probably would not look upon CFS as prestigious.

    So let us (unsafely) assume that CFS somehow miraculously stands out as a research subject generally devoid of fraud. It is however riddled with poor quality research, political maneuvers, and spin doctoring. These problems go almost entirely unchallenged by professionals involved with CFS, leaving patients and carers to do it, some of them who have concluded that much of the poor quality research is a form of scientific misconduct.

    Talking about "vigilantes" in Neuroskeptic's post, i.e. people scrutinizing research papers because the authorities have failed or seem incapable of doing so, that is what many people scrutinizing CFS research could be described as. On some level they have been or felt wronged or agitated by questionable research, highly motivated by threats to or damage done to their health or that of loved ones, and are taking the lax scrutiny process into their own hands.

    For their efforts they are commonly regarded as ideological extremists, although in keeping with the analogy, not all of this vigilantism has necessarily been good or clean either. Vigilantism would not be needed if the authorities were adequate.
    Last edited: Jan 1, 2014
  6. Valentijn

    Valentijn Activity Level: 3

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    I think the 3 Dutch papers reviewed in the Wiborg paper would count as proper academic fraud. All three used actometers, which showed no improvements, yet only improvement on questionnaire scores was reported. One or two even mentioned that actometers were used, in the same breath as improvements, which had the effect of implying that the actometer data also showed improvement.
  7. Bob

    Bob

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    I don't think I've read much about these Dutch studies.
    Do you happen to know how we know the outcomes of the actigraphy if the data wasn't published?
  8. Valentijn

    Valentijn Activity Level: 3

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    It was published in the Wiborg paper, several years later, in the context of "see, actometer results aren't relevant".
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