Honest Science

The open science project for social psychology (hey, let me just remind you, you can join!) is having an interesting discussion about editors/journals role in the systemic issues of science that (perhaps) allowed people like Stapel to thrive. You know, people who need to be watched so they don’t sneak the cookies (bet he would not have waited for the proverbial marshmallow), who does not feel like Lew   and Uri Simonsohn (and me, and all of the people at open science) that science just is more fun when it is TRUE.

They want to look into the editorial pracices, given that there has been reports that editors have encouraged better narratives (although they may not be as scrupulously true as intended), and suggested leaving off measures that lead to nowhere, in the name of narrative, of clarity etc. Which, actually, is not necessarily bad goals. We should not try to find scape goats here, because it is not productive.

And, in the middle of this comes #overlyhonestmethods as a fresh breath of air, and laughter until tears stream.  You know, being allowed to tell of those messes.  Not being neat (this not always overly conscientious person is relieved), exaggerate for a laugh, make fun on lazy analysis decisions (which more serious research has suggested actually exists, although, well, really shouldn’t).

There was a… ooooh, maybe backlash thing today? Oh, the arc of these things become so predictable after you have hung on the net for a while, like it would disrupt the belief in science.

But, you know, from having taught theory of science (which involves some science studies), I think the façade of being overly pristine is what erodes it, because, it always comes out, in the end, how messy, iffy (but in the end successful) science is.  That is, I believe, what erodes trust. (OH, I’m not the original suggester.  I got it from Stephen Yearly in his book on sociology of science, where he discusses issues with trust between the public and scientists).

I think a lot of scientists WANT to tell you how the sausage is made.  That is why we became scientists, after all.  We want to understand how things work, and we learn, along the way, that it is messy (which makes it more fun, because, well, you know, dirt, muck, feeling like you are five.) OK, not about the bathroom breaks, perhaps, as dr. Leigh said, but, really, about the messiness, the questions, the mistakes (through which results may still shine).

It is the reason I am slowly but insistently pushing the teaching at my school (along with some sibs in arms) towards more of the empirical, the craft of science, the getting your hands dirty, and creating projects that only your parents and your proud supervisor may enjoy, but which on the path of becoming a good, crafty scientist.

Science does, after all, really mean that you should become used to feeling stupid. That you should become used to failure. You are solving puzzles that nobody really has a prior answer to, because nobody programmed it. And, it is not pretty at all times.

I, for one, have always had an attraction towards telling the messy, mistaken stories, over the clean ones. A buddy of mine commented (approvingly) on that many years back, but to naïve me, that was part of it. I was training to be a scientist because, as David Sloane Wilson put it, I am worshipping truth – which is not an easy thing to get to.

Now, perhaps we don’t want to be overly honest in real science.  But, at least, lets move towards allowing scientists, in print, to be honest.


About asehelene

... because if I'm in a room with a second person, I want to be reasonably sure I'm the crazier one.
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One Response to Honest Science

  1. asehelene says:

    Reblogged this on Åse Fixes Science and commented:

    Fits here too. Perhaps better.

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