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Top 5 Things Wrong With Science
"Science isn't perfect, research can be tedious and difficult. Dr. Kiki Sanford breaks down the top 5 problems with science
August 19, 2015
1. For better or worse, scientists have a number of constraints on their research methods that can narrow the scope of their work. For instance, biologists studying a certain animal may not have the time, resources, or funding to study that subject year-round. Many researchers are also working professors, who must balance their teaching responsibilities with field work in order go get proper funding. A recent analysis looking at more than 2,000 animal studies from major scientific journals found that only 5 percent of them took multiple seasons into account when studying animal biology. Another common example of convenience bias is the fact that animal subjects tend to be disproportionately male. Male subjects do not produce offspring, so many researchers find it easier to use males exclusively in their work.
2. The subjects are not the only ones disproportionately represented by sex. In 2015, there's still more men than women entering scientific research as a profession. It's more common for men to be hired for university research positions and get published in major scientific journals.
3. Scientific publications could also fix the type of research they promote. There's a tendency in the industry to favor research that's exciting or alarming. These types of articles tend to get referenced more and more since they cause so much attention, thus making the journal appear very impactful. This can compromise scientific integrity and it's not uncommon for these more alarmist journals to retract their studies.
4. At the same time, scientists can sometimes selectively favor data that is more surprising or contradictory. These results are more likely to be published in a leading journal, which gets the researcher and his or her place of work more attention. There is almost an incentive to cherry-pick particularly shocking data over results that simply reinforce popular theories.
5. Last, funding is another big problem in scientific research. In the U.S., research funds come from either the government or private sources (e.g. non-profits). Government funding for research has been dropping noticeably in recent years, with as little as 8 percent of researchers getting their applications approved. Research proposals that are more aimed at long-term studies are deprioritized in favor of studies that focus on more immediate and conceivable benefits.
These are some major concerns, but it's worth stating that there is a lot of good being done from inside the scientific community. Researchers are turning to crowd-funding models, for example. This is all just meant to inform you on some of the currents going on within research so the next time you come across a scientific article, think about everything that went into it."