Saturday, December 06, 2014

"To good to be true" - Criticism of scientific studies grows

It is almost ironic, the other day I posted this article Reason Why I'm Skeptical of Skepticism which criticized over reliance on many study conclusions without actual supporting or valid data within the studies.  Now, just a few days later, there is a new published "study of studies" which reinforces the idea of being skeptical of scientific study conclusions, Excess Success for Psychology Articles in the Journal Science.  This study exposes that many studies in Psychology have issues, where the declared conclusions are simply "to good to be true" based on the strength of the data.  The inference being that there may be a general problem with all fields of science.
"Not every experiment is methodologically sound, and some experiments (even if methodologically sound) do not clarify the status of a theoretical idea. There is little reason to publish such experimental results, whether they are statistically significant or not. Unfortunately, in day-to-day scientific practice it is quite easy to interpret an unsuccessful outcome as being irrelevant to the theory or as being methodologically flawed and therefore not worth reporting."
In other words, data is cherry-picked in support of the theory rather than attempting to take contrary results into account.  This is basically throwing out the Scientific Method when it doesn't result in data this supports a theory.  In other cases, data collection is just too imprecise to form a suitable theory.  Kind of like garage-in-garbage-out.

I have a feeling a growing criticism of the current system is going to force changes into the process of study publishing and utilization.

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