I recently audited a course on bioethics and responsible conduct of research that included an amazing lecture by Dr. Arturo Casadevall from Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Dr. Casadevall drove home the fact that scientific innovation has been the key to advancing society from where it was in medieval times to where it is now (think cleanliness, running water, antibiotics, nutrition, etc.). He smartly pointed out that even the poorest in the USA have a better quality of life than the richest person back then (smoke-filled castles, horrible diseases, no running water etc). However, he contrasted this with the many systemic problems currently plaguing science, that are, and unless remedied, will continue to destroy the innovative productivity of science. This includes the hyper-competitive nature of science that is driven by a winner-takes-all system, which in turn fosters sloppiness/fraud, and supports ‘safe’ rather than truly innovative science. I plan to write a multi-part post that considers these problems, the reasons they exist, and hopefully that include some ideas for how to fix them. Dr. Casadevall has published a number of articles along with Ferric C. Fang about retractions, fraud, and other problems in science (which I will reference and link to in the blog posts). Many of these problems have recently been reported all over the news, which I will include in my posts (for example: scientific fraud and retraction, STAP stem cells anyone?).
While the goal of this blog is to advocate for science, explain science, and report super interesting science, discussing the bad parts of science are as important to the endeavor, and to fixing the public’s opinion of science, as all the cool stuff. Hopefully these posts will educate people who don’t know about these problems, and remind those people who know about the problems but are not acting to fix them. Expect Part 1 soon… The problems and ridiculous economics of academic publishing.
UPDATE: Part 1 is posted: