July 8, 2009

Who can you trust? Not scientists, say ... scientists


ExxonMobil is still pumping money into organisations which publish 'misleading and inaccurate information' about climate change, according to the Guardian. How rotten of them. How shocking. Or is it?

According to new research published in the journal PloS ONE, scientists (all of 'em, not just the ones in the pay of ExxonMobil) regularly publish 'unreliable' research.

'Even if conducted at best possible practice, scientific research is never entirely free of errors', note Thomas Pfeiffer at Harvard University and Robert Hoffman at MIT.

Now get this. Researchers who work on 'hot' subjects like climate change (and yeast, apparently) are more likely to get it wrong than those who slave away over the less glamorous aspects of science.

Fine, everyone makes mistakes. But what if members of the scientific community are deliberately publishing misleading and inaccurate research?

'In highly competitive fields there might be stronger incentives to 'manufacture' positive results by, for example, modifying data or statistical tests', concludes the study.

Worrying stuff. If it's true - here's hoping that the study's authors made a few mistakes themselves.


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