Sunday, May 03, 2015

How does this disturb the powerful?

The Guardian wants some science to be political:
But there is a problem, revealed most clearly in the entries for the Association of British Science Writers’ (ABSW) annual awards.

Too few of them, in every category from TV programmes to news stories, tell a tale that someone in a position of power would prefer not to see published. Plenty of good science journalism is entered, but too little of it involves controversy. And while we have a “best investigative journalism” category, the entries for it have not been as strong or as many as we would wish.

This must mean that important stories are being missed, whether they relate to the content of scientific research, the behaviour of individual scientists, or the big decisions about policy and funding that set the direction of the scientific enterprise. So we have decided to do something about it.

I am trying to figure out who is supposed to be worried about whether we can identify sources for cosmogenic neutrinos. I can imagine that some drug firms might be worried if someone found that dilute infusions of Camellia sinensis were just as good as fluoxetine for treating depression. I don't have to imagine what would happen if the president of Harvard were to suggest avenues for research into why women weren't as common as men in the top tenured research positions--the powerful did not want to see that addressed.

But grab a research journal and try to imagine who, besides their competitors, would be upset about the articles published there.

We know there are systemic problems with drug research (negative results tend not to be published). That's not a conspiracy so much as a structural bias. There are fads in research direction, and that has a way of skewing things for a while, but generally the diminishing returns force people to look elsewhere. Eventually.

1 comment:

Assistant Village Idiot said...

The first words of the second quoted paragraph, "This must mean..." reveals all. They start from paranoia and arrogance. They are certain in their political and social beliefs. Anything which does not support this can only arise because a few evil wreckers are preventing the truth from coming out.