Scientific publication, a reliable standard?

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Scientific publication, a reliable standard?

#1  Postby Svartalf » Jun 23, 2020 11:57 am

So, I read a thread or other, and had second thoughts, but decided to put them down here rather than derail a thead on a different subject.

It is commonhere that when a poster gives a document in support of some thesis, it be asked whether said thesis has been published in well regarded peer reviewed journals and generally accepted by the scientific community.

Far from me to claim science is bunk or some kind of conspiration, but... these demands rest on the assumption that the only kind of sound science is the kind that builds on the commonly accepted theories, and does not question them on too basic a level, or come up with too outrageous novelties... yet, if such where the case, Einstein would never have become the byword for genius he is, as his discoveries were no less than revolutionary, even though they gained quick acceptance thanks to his impeccable mathematics. Similarly, the plate tectonics theory, which is now our generally accepted paradig for the way the earth crust works, had the damnedest time getting accepted, as it overturned any number of the basic assumptions on geology and structure of earth that were current when it was first aired.

So is a discovery being consensual among the knowledgeable circles really a yardstick for it being of interest?

OK, Mods, feel free to move this to a mora appropriate section if I erred in putting it here
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Re: Scientific publication, a reliable standard?

#2  Postby theropod_V_2.0 » Jun 23, 2020 12:06 pm

Testing, testing and more testing. It doesn’t matter how revolutionary a concept is if the test results are consistent.

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Re: Scientific publication, a reliable standard?

#3  Postby Hermit » Jun 23, 2020 12:08 pm

Svartalf wrote:Scientific publication, a reliable standard?

Um, yeah. Sometimes the publishers of scientific journals get things wrong by omission or commission. Can you suggest a preferable option?
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Re: Scientific publication, a reliable standard?

#4  Postby felltoearth » Jun 23, 2020 12:21 pm

Some some mistake scientific publications as science, but that is incorrect. They are records of people doing science and presenting what they have done so other scientists can review, retest, share and build on knowledge. Any one particular study infact tells us very little. It's like reading a single chapter of novel, you're not getting the whole story. It's also why meta-analysis is an extremely important aspect of scientific research.
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Re: Scientific publication, a reliable standard?

#5  Postby Hermit » Jun 23, 2020 12:48 pm

felltoearth wrote:Some some mistake scientific publications as science, but that is incorrect. They are records of people doing science and presenting what they have done so other scientists can review, retest, share and build on knowledge. Any one particular study infact tells us very little. It's like reading a single chapter of novel, you're not getting the whole story. It's also why meta-analysis is an extremely important aspect of scientific research.

Fair enough, but I guess Svarty is referring to publications of in peer reviewed journals. 'Peer review' means they are shared after being reviewed and tested for validity and found to pass reviews and tests. it so happens that some articles are retracted - sometimes after a considerable time lag, while other submissions are accepted - sometimes after a very long time.

All true. I just can't think of a better system for publishing new findings in science. That is why I asked if Svarty can.
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Re: Scientific publication, a reliable standard?

#6  Postby Fallible » Jun 23, 2020 4:11 pm

Absolutely agree, meta-analysis is invaluable. A lot of published studies can contain an extremely small cohort, rendering them individually pretty unenlightening.

I also agree that peer review is the best we can do.
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Re: Scientific publication, a reliable standard?

#7  Postby felltoearth » Jun 23, 2020 4:16 pm

Hermit wrote:
All true. I just can't think of a better system for publishing new findings in science. That is why I asked if Svarty can.


Fallible wrote:
I also agree that peer review is the best we can do.


Yep.Yep.
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Re: Scientific publication, a reliable standard?

#8  Postby felltoearth » Jun 23, 2020 4:20 pm

I think the issue is scientific literacy among the public, but primarily in the press reporting on these studies. Science doesn't benefit from a 24 hour news cycle and people have to understand the limits of the studies being reported on.
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Re: Scientific publication, a reliable standard?

#9  Postby Svartalf » Jun 23, 2020 4:47 pm

scientific literacy? come on, I'm an educated person, but I wouldn't presume to assay a scientific article, I simply don't have the background to do so.
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Re: Scientific publication, a reliable standard?

#10  Postby Fallible » Jun 23, 2020 6:28 pm

I was assuming more that fellto was talking about not being au fait with scientific terminology, confidence intervals, etc., also that a study will come out with certain results, and the reporting of it will treat them as fundamental facts, so we get ‘study says eggs will kill you!’ and next time ‘study says eggs are good for you!’ Probably attempts to deliver what they think are the core findings, but miss the point that it’s one study which on its own does not offer the level of ‘proof’ that they seem to think.
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Re: Scientific publication, a reliable standard?

#11  Postby Fenrir » Jun 23, 2020 8:08 pm

Einstein's work was not that of an isolated maverick genius. The foundation for all his work already existed in the work of others. Einstein's genius was to build on and extend it. If Einstein hadn't done it someone else would have in short order.

And no, that doesn't detract one whit from Einstein's brilliance.

The rest of the op similarly mischaracterizes science. It's a common and annoying trope which appears to be shared by a large proportion of non-scientists and quite a few who are.

Publication in a journal means the author has at least attempted to quantify their claims. It avoids the issue with youtube geniuses who debunk all known physics yet are incapable of doing the necessary math.
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Re: Scientific publication, a reliable standard?

#12  Postby felltoearth » Jun 24, 2020 4:07 pm

Fallible wrote:I was assuming more that fellto was talking about not being au fait with scientific terminology, confidence intervals, etc., also that a study will come out with certain results, and the reporting of it will treat them as fundamental facts, so we get ‘study says eggs will kill you!’ and next time ‘study says eggs are good for you!’ Probably attempts to deliver what they think are the core findings, but miss the point that it’s one study which on its own does not offer the level of ‘proof’ that they seem to think.

I’m not a scientist, no where near, but I can suss out bullshit from possibly good papers by looking at few things (sample size and the controls used for the study for example.) It’s about bullshit detection more-so than being able to judge the true meaning of any one study, or being able to follow the math. I’ll let the real experts take that on.
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Re: Scientific publication, a reliable standard?

#13  Postby Fallible » Jun 24, 2020 5:26 pm

:thumbup:
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Re: Scientific publication, a reliable standard?

#14  Postby surreptitious57 » Jun 24, 2020 6:26 pm

Peer review is one of the fundamental tenets of the scientific method
Its purpose is to allow scientists to critically assess the work of others in their particular field
But as with all aspects of the scientific method it is a continuous process that never ever stops

More knowledge leads to greater understanding but only if it is subjected to the highest degree of scrutiny
And scientists are the only ones who can actually do this as they are trained to be as objective as possible
But other scientists can assess their work even more objectively and as such detect any unintentional bias
This is why rigor is so necessary with regard to the scientific method - without it it would be entirely superfluous

Meta analysis is very important too because it references a greater quantity and quality of information
And that is subject to the very same degree of rigor in order to eliminate any unintentional bias there

Also science today is far more inclusive and open with cooperation both within and across disciplines
So that cooperation coupled with the rigor of the scientific method is the way for it to truly progress

The only down side to all this is when it gets diluted by the media or when the general public is just too lazy to actually
educate themselves on the relevant subject matter or has an ideological objection to some particular aspect of science
This is not the fault of scientists - if it was it would be a very serious problem indeed - but it still needs to be addressed

Two other problems that distort the work of scientists :
Pseudo scientists who dont have the relevant qualifications or pseudo science masquerading as science
Celebrities expressing opinions on scientific subjects they are not qualified to talk about in any capacity
But their opinion is still treated as valid by their fans too lazy to do any independent research themselves

Anyone wanting to further educate themselves on this should read the truly excellent Bad Science by Ben Goldacre
A doctor and scientist and journalist with three degrees who gives crystal clear analysis of everything discussed here

Also the internet : the greatest educational tool ever invented and then some
The capacity to learn is truly phenomenal so ignorance is no longer an excuse
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Re: Scientific publication, a reliable standard?

#15  Postby Blackadder » Jun 25, 2020 8:24 am

There is of course the “science is a closed shop” trope that is wheeled out inevitably when someone who considers themselves an unrecognised genius comes up with an idea that “overturns everything” we know about some phenomenon.

When it is rejected for serious analysis by scientific journals because of a lack of data or mathematical rigour, the cry is always that “scientists reject anything that challenges their dogma, therefore conspiracy, blah...blah..” It’s the go-to complaint of cranks and religious apologists.

Passing peer review doesn’t mean a paper’s thesis is correct, or that it conforms dogmatically to existing theory. Only that it fits with the data and is intellectually rigourous. If peer review meant rejecting anything that challenged the current theories, then there would have been no scientific progress in the last 200 years. I submit that the data suggests some not insignificant progress has been achieved since 1820, which rules out orthodoxy or dogma as prevailing forces in scientific discourse.
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