Monday, January 18, 2016

The Truth in Science

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed after reading about biases and irreproducibility of data in science. Along with many of my fellow bloggers, I was “raised” to believe science was pure and truthful. My undergraduate mentors encouraged students to be proud of our non-significant results (because they were still results!), but strive for that significance and keep asking questions of your research and that of your peers. Because of my strong moral code, I am currently struggling with the best way to guide a colleague who is being pressured by the “Publish or Perish” motto in academia. For one project, as our sample size grows, our significance is declining. I should preface this with: The data that I have at my fingertips are retrospective and just sitting around, waiting for someone to ask questions and analyze. However, retrospective data screams “BIAS” as we all know by now…so addressing the constant biases will be a constant struggle. My coworker wants those sexy results that we all dream of, so, “let’s just see if what happens if we only use these” is a conversation we’ve had. A slippery slope? Most definitely. Sustainable? No way.

The new PubPeer platform recently reviewed in the Vox article “Why you can’t always believe what you read in scientific journals” is really exciting. It has seemingly great potential to generate discussion and calling one’s bluff or pointing out an oversight. As it stands, a manuscript is submitted for publication, experts in that field, that particular topic, review the manuscript and have ultimate say whether or not that article is significant enough to be published. PubPeer has the ability to let others with fresh eyes, in other disciplines, comment to the validity of the research in a more efficient manner than the traditional methods. Fresh eyes and different perspectives are critical in science. Science is all about refining ideas by disproving others; by pointing out weak points in methodology or interpretation of results, we can make each other better scientists, right? As science evolves, our methods of disseminating “truths” seem to be evolving as well. Well done, PubPeer!

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