A Banner Week in Science

Science magazine, that is…

First and foremost, there was the retraction of LaCour and Green (2014), When contact changes minds: An experiment on transmission of support for gay equality, at the behest of the second author. The retraction states:

The reasons for retracting the paper are as follows: (i) Survey incentives were misrepresented. To encourage participation in the survey, respondents were claimed to have been given cash payments to enroll, to refer family and friends, and to complete multiple surveys. In correspondence received from Michael J. LaCour’s attorney, he confirmed that no such payments were made. (ii) The statement on sponsorship was false…

In addition to these known problems, independent researchers have noted certain statistical irregularities in the responses ( 2 ). LaCour has not produced the original survey data from which someone else could independently confirm the validity of the reported findings.

Michael J. LaCour does not agree to this Retraction.

LaCour and Green - retracted May 28 2015

The “statistical irregularities” were uncovered by Broockman, Kalla, and Aronow in a 27 page critical report. And as promised, LaCour issued a 23 page rebuttal to Broockman et al. on May 29 (which is being mercilessly dissected as we speak).

You can read complete coverage of the scandal at Buzzfeed, Retraction Watch, and Science of Us (New York magazine). And of course, there’s the time sink known as poliscirumors (if you dare).

Some see L’Affair LaCour as a shining example of the self-corrective nature of science, a triumph of modern statistics and self-publishing. Others are more cynical and view it as a move to cover Don Green’s back.

Thus, the political scientists have started a narrative to defend their rank of science and have explained the fraud as a sign of their fortress, because, as science works and they are scientists, they can catch the dishonest colleagues. A narrative that necessarily has to make of Donald P. Green a hero, as we can read in the article of The New Republic. The problem is that there are a few lies in this story, a lot of incoherence and, worse, a very small triangle formed by the three main characters, the villain Michael J. Lacour, the opportunist boss, Donald P. Green, and the detective who discovered the fraud and former disciple of the opportunist boss, David Broockman. A very close triangle of three scholars who shared academic careers and who might have not be driven by, at least, the pursuing of the truth.

 

Sometimes, I reach a state of despair when considering the characteristics needed for a “successful” academic career.

 

Chocolate with high cocoa content as a weight-loss accelerator

Next, we have Science contributing correspondent reporting on The Retraction the DAY AFTER his own unethical phony study was trumpeted in io9. Will Science slap him on the wrist? Force him to retract his stunt paper on chocolate as a weight-loss accelerator 1  from International Archives of Medicine? Oops, too late, the predatory publisher already pulled the article from their site without issuing a retraction notice. Fortunately, you can still get the PDF here.

Bohannon portrayed it as another sting,2 this time of lazy journalists who don’t bother to check their sources. The ones who were really fooled, however, were public consumers of diet news. Deliberate propagation of false health information is unethical, and I wonder if Science will do anything about it.

I’ve been harping on sensationalistic media coverage and trumped up press releases for nearly ten years now (often in a funny/cynical/sarcastic way), but I’ve never disseminated false health information. Well, OK, I’ve jokingly written about Vegas casino develops technique for unobtrusive radiofrequency ablation of the amygdala and The Neurology of Twitter and Anthropomorphic Neuroscience Driven by Researchers with Large TPJs, but these were clearly parodies, not recommendations that people should change their diets (under the guise of SCIENCE).

….. time for a chocolate now …..

 

Science Magazine

Sleeping your way out of a bad attitude (Feld & Born, 2015).

Then there’s the cure racism and sexism while you sleep 3 paper (Hu et al., 2015), published on that fateful May 28 Retraction Day, along with the first time researchers have been able to suppress a memory and then restore it in an animal article (Ryan et al., 2015). I haven’t read either one, so no deconstruction here.

Credulous coverage of the latter prompted a Nature editor to link to this earlier paper and to say:

Some day journos will either learn to read the literature or stop using sensationalist language like “OMG 1ST TIME!!”

Neither of those scenarios will ever happen. It Feels Like The First Time in 2007, as it does today.

Time for another chocolate.

 

Footnotes

1 Total n=15 for three groups (i.e., n=5 in each of the groups):

  • Low-carb diet with daily serving of 42 grams of chocolate
  • Low-carb diet without chocolate
  • Eat at own discretion

Also, a ridiculous age range (1967) and irresponsible BMI range (19.1539.95)… who in their right mind enrolls someone at the low end of “normal” into a diet study?

2 Bohannon’s first sting, of predatory open access journals, was published (where else) in Science. The chocolate sting was underwritten by German filmmakers.

3 Another fun headline: Could SLEEP make you less racist? Gender and racial bias can be ‘erased’ during a nap, claims study.

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The Journal of Megalomania

American International Journal of Contemporary Research

AIJCR aims to promote contemporary research in business, humanities, social science, science and technology and become the leading journal in the world.

Now here’s a journal that not only wants to be all things to all people, it wants to take over the world. It’s American and International. It publishes papers in “three broad specific fields” [sic] of Business and Economics, Humanities and Social science, and Science and Technology.

Have a simulation model on dance, social welfare, tourism, and botany? Don’t know where to send that technical note on the international relations of robotic forestry? Now there’s a journal for all your multidisciplinary work! In fact, it hopes to become premiere journal for all the research in the universe, publishing “original papers, review papers, conceptual framework, analytical and simulation models, case studies, empirical research, technical notes, and book reviews.”

What journal is it, you ask?

Why it’s American International Journal of Contemporary Research (AIJCR)!  Here’s their e-mail pitch to me:

Call for Papers

American International Journal of Contemporary Research
ISSN 2162-139X (Print), ISSN 2162-142X (Online)

American International Journal of Contemporary Research (AIJCR) is an open access, peer-reviewed and refereed multidisciplinary journal published by Center for Promoting Ideas (CPI), USA. The main objective of AIJCR is to provide an intellectual platform for the research community. AIJCR aims to promote contemporary research in business, humanities, social science, science and technology and become the leading journal in the world.

The journal publishes research papers in three broad specific fields as follows:

Business and Economics

Management, marketing, finance, economics, banking, accounting, human resources management, international business, hotel and tourism, entrepreneurship development, business ethics, development studies and so on.

Humanities and Social science

Anthropology, communication studies, corporate governance, criminology, cross-cultural studies, demography, education, ethics, geography, history, industrial relations, information science, international relations, law, linguistics, library science, media studies, methodology, philosophy, political science, population Studies, psychology, public administration, sociology, social welfare, linguistics, literature, paralegal, performing arts (music, theatre & dance), religious studies, visual arts, women studies.

Science and Technology

Astronomy and astrophysics, Chemistry, Earth and atmospheric sciences, Physics, Biology in general, Agriculture, Biophysics and biochemistry, Botany, Environmental Science, Forestry, Genetics, Horticulture, Husbandry, Neuroscience, Zoology, Computer science, Engineering, Robotics and Automation, Materials science, Mathematics, Mechanics, Statistics, Health Care & Public Health, Nutrition and Food Science, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and so on.

The journal is published both in print and online versions.

Given their ambitions (and their logo), I think the AIJCR publisher has been watching House of Cards

House_of_cards_logo

Top ten social-science questions…

as named by a bunch of old Harvard professors

   (and a few others)…

1. How can we induce people to look after their health?

2. How do societies create effective and resilient institutions, such as governments?

3. How can humanity increase its collective wisdom?

4. How do we reduce the ‘skill gap’ between black and white people in America?

5. How can we aggregate information possessed by individuals to make the best decisions?

6. How can we understand the human capacity to create and articulate knowledge?

7. Why do so many female workers still earn less than male workers?

8. How and why does the ‘social’ become ‘biological’?

9. How can we be robust against ‘black swans’ — rare events that have extreme consequences?

10. Why do social processes, in particular civil violence, either persist over time or suddenly change?