• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). Come here to have fun, be ready to be teased and not take online life too seriously. We now measure and review equipment for free! Click here for details.

Nick Brown Smelled Bull

mhardy6647

Major Contributor
Joined
Dec 12, 2019
Messages
2,670
Likes
4,943
#4
I worry about scientists not peeking behind the curtain when they build on "a house of cards", frankly.
I was b!tching to my wife about this over breakfast this morning as we chatted about the titular reference that is the subject of this thread.

:confused:
 

Wes

Major Contributor
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
Messages
2,795
Likes
2,475
#5
I worry about scientists not peeking behind the curtain when they build on "a house of cards", frankly.
I was b!tching to my wife about this over breakfast this morning as we chatted about the titular reference that is the subject of this thread.

:confused:
I never worry about that.

I do worry about areas that are not investigated however.
 

mhardy6647

Major Contributor
Joined
Dec 12, 2019
Messages
2,670
Likes
4,943
#6
I never worry about that.
I guess it is only because I am an empiricist that I do. :(
I have, unfortunately, seen it happen, more than once.

The most egregious example I recall was the discovery of a protein (i.e., gene product) that was judged to be capable of inducing apoptosis (so called "programmed cell death" -- a very orderly and non-necrotic way for a cell to die when it is supposed to). Apoptotic agents are/were attractive cancer therapeutics if they can, e.g., be targeted to neatly and predictably "kill" cancer cells specifically. Novel gene, novel sequence, great IP position. ;)

The "apoptosis inducing" protein was purified and shown to have activity based on an assay for the characteristic 200 bp DNA "laddering" that is one of the hallmarks of apoptotic DNA degradation. To cut a long, and very expensive story, short -- the active principle was not the purified gene product per se, but a contaminating endonuclease. The whole endeavor was based on a poor choice of "gold standard" surrogate assay for apoptosis coupled with poorly designed (incompletely controlled) experiments, coupled with a whole lot of wishful thinking &, of course, good old fashioned greed.

EDIT: and, as a peer reviewer, I've read numerous submitted manuscripts that either misinterpreted or (more typically) overinterpreted data based on poor (I might say wishful) experimental design.
 
Last edited:

Blumlein 88

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Feb 23, 2016
Messages
11,519
Likes
16,959
#7
Good article, my feeling is to paint it as the tip of the iceberg of the issues in many social sciences is not even adequate. I think whole swaths of those fields are total unremitting bullsh*te.

I've had to use some similarly sketchy ideas my employer embraced in evaluating potential employees. For a few years it caused us to hire incredibly unsuited for the position people. I'm pretty sure one could dig into the ideas behind that and find similarly poor founding for the concepts. But who has the time. It gives all the social sciences a bad name. At least it does to someone like me with an engineering type background. I don't expect that field to yield a ratio with that exactness. It isn't engineering or physical science. People claiming such things automatically raise my ire.
 

Wes

Major Contributor
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
Messages
2,795
Likes
2,475
#9
I guess it is only because I am an empiricist that I do. :(
I have, unfortunately, seen it happen, more than once.

The most egregious example I recall was the discovery of a protein (i.e., gene product) that was judged to be capable of inducing apoptosis (so called "programmed cell death" -- a very orderly and non-necrotic way for a cell to die when it is supposed to). Apoptotic agents are/were attractive cancer therapeutics if they can, e.g., be targeted to neatly and predictably "kill" cancer cells specifically. Novel gene, novel sequence, great IP position. ;)

The "apoptosis inducing" protein was purified and shown to have activity based on an assay for the characteristic 200 bp DNA "laddering" that is one of the hallmarks of apoptotic DNA degradation. To cut a long, and very expensive story, short -- the active principle was not the purified gene product per se, but a contaminating endonuclease. The whole endeavor was based on a poor choice of "gold standard" surrogate assay for apoptosis coupled with poorly designed (incompletely controlled) experiments, coupled with a whole lot of wishful thinking &, of course, good old fashioned greed.

EDIT: and, as a peer reviewer, I've read numerous submitted manuscripts that either misinterpreted or (more typically) overinterpreted data based on poor (I might say wishful) experimental design.
I am just a scientist, and not sure what an empiricist is.

You describe the normal workings of journal publication, which is part of the self-correcting nature of science.

If something is wrong, later research will usually show that.

We can hope that these two "loops" were tighter, with fewer time lags, but the larger problem is areas that aren't being studied at all.
 

mhardy6647

Major Contributor
Joined
Dec 12, 2019
Messages
2,670
Likes
4,943
#10
We can hope that these two "loops" were tighter, with fewer time lags, but the larger problem is areas that aren't being studied at all.
We'll agree there, methinks.
An empiricist, scientifically speaking, is someone who evaluates theory with data (technically, data acquired by the senses, but as an analytical scientist, I am OK with using some instrumentation to help;) ) -- theory's great, until it doesn't "work" (say, e.g., the "ultraviolet catastrophe"). In my line o' work (glycobiology), it feels like the more we think we understand, the less we do.

I just get (got) very frustrated seeing folks invest a lot of resources (time, money, and FTEs) in poorly thought-out programs -- this was in biotech in the early 21st century when various "omics" approaches to figuring out things became fashionable. Lots money invested in academic partnerships that moved slowly and produced little of substance.
 
Last edited:

Wes

Major Contributor
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
Messages
2,795
Likes
2,475
#13
There are worse problems. If interested, I can post an essay or screed I churned out on some of the worse problems.

also, I'd say “Deans can't read, they can only count money.”

The modern research university is a wonder, but (in the US at least) research importance takes a back seat to bringing in $$ to support the Creatures of the Night (Deans, etc.). Some places (Harvard, IIRC) have tried to mitigate the problem by not considering publication by volume for T&P - decisions are based on the candidates choice of their top 3-5 papers.
 
Top Bottom