Sunday, January 17, 2016

Is the Pressure too much?

The pressure to publish is ruining science. Don't get me wrong, publishing data and sharing it with other scientists is critical for the advancement of science. However the issue comes when scientist feel so pressured to turn out X number of publications a year that they cut corners. 

Scientific journals focus on novel findings that can advance the world of science to include in their journals. In general this means a hypothesis confirmed for each article. An article in the economist took out the calculators and did the math, showing that up to 35% of published confirmed hypothesizes are false based on the very statistics that scientists use to confirm or reject a hypothesis. Of course this is assuming the statistics were done properly in the first place.

Many things can go wrong leading to an experiment that biases the research to a certain result. Often things that may bias research are looked over simply because the research would not realize that it could bias the results. In the situation where a scientist feels overly pressured to publish, bias may come about through desperation to confirm a hypothesis.

In a blog on Scientific American, Jared Hovarth mentions that part of science is learning from mistakes and using those mistakes to advance research forward. However with today’s journals focusing on success and limited money for replication, it is hard to weed out those 35% of falsely confirmed hypothesizes. I thing that for science to become more efficient and progress more swiftly, journals should publish more articles that disprove hypothesizes. Not only would this decrease the desperation to confirm a hypothesis, but it would also help other scientist focus their own research.

One of the reasons I have always admired science is because I considered it a pure art to seek out a true answer. When biased gets involved, science becomes less pure and less reliable. Though there are many sources to introduce bias, the pressure to publish is a completely unnecessary pressure to influence results. Publishing should be where the truth is spread and data is shared, not a pressure to doctor results and skew data. 

1 comment:

  1. Great post. I agree! The pressure to publish causes anxiety and can legitimately threaten the livelihood of any lab. It is probably the greatest single reason that data gets manipulated and falsified. At the same time, unfortunately, it is the system in which we find ourselves. Publications provide a metric for productivity and means by which to judge one's scientific instincts. While I totally agree that it often does more damage than good, publication pressure is a reality of the job.