All science is undermined by the actions of those few scientists that engage in research fraud. This has led to a broad movement to increase transparency in science, with calls for speedier archiving of data and insuring scientists respond to requests for data, code and information needed to replicate their research.
Celebrated cases of outright fraud lead off with the story of Andrew Wakefield, who claimed to have shown a link between autism and the MMR vaccine. There was no demonstrable link. Wakefield committed scientific fraud. There are many more cases that have made headlines (click here and scroll down) and doubtless more that have not yet come to light.
However, Social Psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky thinks things have gone far enough and that scientists should be less transparent. His paper, “Research integrity: Don’t let transparency damage science” has just been published in Nature. I learned of this via And Then There’s Physics,
He writes, “Endless information requests, complaints to researchers’ universities, online harassment, distortion of scientific findings and even threats of violence: these were all recurring experiences shared by researchers from a broad range of disciplines at a Royal Society-sponsored meeting last year that we organized to explore this topic.”
Lewandowsky offers ‘Ten Red Flag areas that can help to differentiate healthy debate, problematic research practices and campaigns that masquerade as scientific inquiry.” I believe Brad Keyes might profit from examining this in detail.
What prompts Lewandowsky’s work? Well, it may stem from him being accused of being a poster child for bad science. I am one of his accusers, in case you have any doubt.
A little background:
A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reviewed 2,047 retractions of biomedical and life-sciences articles and found that just 21.3 percent stemmed from straightforward error, while 67.4 percent resulted from misconduct, including fraud or suspected fraud (43.4 percent) and plagiarism (9.8 percent).
Perhaps hardest hit in recent times is the broad field of social science. “The past several years have been bruising ones for the credibility of the social sciences. A star social psychologist was caught fabricating data, leading to more than 50 retracted papers. A top journal published a studysupporting the existence of ESP that was widely criticized. The journal Science pulled a political science paper on the effect of gay canvassers on voters’ behavior because of concerns about faked data.
Now, a painstaking yearslong effort to reproduce 100 studies published in three leading psychology journals has found that more than half of the findings did not hold up when retested. The analysis was done by research psychologists, many of whom volunteered their time to double-check what they considered important work. Their conclusions, reported Thursday in the journal Science, have confirmed the worst fears of scientists who have long worried that the field needed a strong correction.”
One scientist whose work has been offered as an example of faulty research practice is social psychologist Stephan Lewandowsky. Psychologist Lee Jussim recently gave a talk at Sydney University on the subject and singled out Lewandowsky for providing misleading results.
“Jussim’s talk began with one of the most egregious examples of bias in recent years. He drew the audience’s attention to the paper: “NASA faked the moon landing – therefore (climate) science is a hoax.” The study was led by Stephan Lewandowsky, and published in Psychological Science in 2013. The paper argued that those who believed that the moon landing was a hoax also believed that climate science was a fraud. The abstract stated:
We…show that endorsement of a cluster of conspiracy theories (e.g., that the CIA killed Martin-Luther King or that NASA faked the moon landing) predicts rejection of climate science as well as the rejection of other scientific findings above and beyond commitment to laissez-faire free markets. This provides confirmation of previous suggestions that conspiracist ideation contributes to the rejection of science.
After describing the study and reading the abstract, Jussim paused. Something big was coming.
“But out of 1145 participants, only ten agreed that the moon landing was a hoax!” he said. “Of the study’s participants, 97.8% who thought that climate science was a hoax, did not think that the moon landing also a hoax.”
His fellow psychologists shifted in their seats. Jussim pointed out that the level of obfuscation the authors went to, in order to disguise their actual data, was intense. Statistical techniques appeared to have been chosen that would hide the study’s true results. And it appeared that no peer reviewers, or journal editors, took the time, or went to the effort of scrutinizing the study in a way that was sufficient to identify the bold misrepresentations.”
I have frequently described Lewandowsky as a charlatan at this blog and I see no reason to change my views. See here, here and here. His work on perceptions of climate science is worse than flawed–it can only be explained by bad intent.
That he would now call for being shielded from his critics is perhaps natural. It should not, however, be accepted. Or even tolerated.