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At 03-05-01, Vincent Campbell wrote:
>I think you raise interesting questions here, but I'm not so sure of the
>ethics of your proposed tests of your hypotheses, particularly trying to
>trick publishers into either publishing joke articles, or into not
>publishing "good" articles. What would that really show apart from the
>gullibility of particular journal staff?
Experimenting with people always involves ethic problems. But sometimes
it's the only way to gain knowledge. For example, every new medicine is
tested on humans despite considerable risks, because the gains are higher
than the costs.
In psychology, new therapeutic methods are sometimes applied without any
testing or systematic evaluation. This is certainly worse, in terms of
ethics, because harmful therapies may be applied routinely when they
haven't been tested. This was the case with memory recovery therapy.
There were ethical problems with Sokal's experiment, but he is defending it
anyway. His fake article has certainly had more impact than any other
article published in 'Social Text'.
I am not going to repeat Sokal's joke, because it has already been done
excellently. I want to do some of the other proposed studies.
I don't see any ethical problems in submitting a good article to a journal
and possibly getting it rejected. Neither do I see any problems in sending
articles to a number of scientists together with a questionnaire.
>Still, you'd need to have very clear
>definitions of how you define non-falsifiable and falsifiable research, and
>I think you presume too much in this regard.
I need help from experts in philosophy of science. But an experiment could
still be made which avoids any articles that are borderline or dubious with
respect to this classification.
>Also, arguably -
> <psychological appeal, politics, ideology, funding, tradition,
> authority, prestige, and sophisticated terminology>
>all of this can apply to the hard sciences also. To try and argue that
>they're ok, and everyone else is problematic, and demonstrably so, seems
>rather specious in fact.
I am not claiming that the hard sciences are perfect. Probably, no science
is free of irrelevant influence.
The high pressure to 'publish or perish' has tempted many scientists to
Research in medicine and technology is to an increasing degree being
sponsored by commercial interests, and there have been cases where the
sponsors attempt to suppres the publication of inconvenient results. Also,
much of this research is going on inside industrial companies which publish
very selectively, and mostly in the form of patents.
There is also the problem that negative findings are seldom published.
Imagine that twenty scientists are doing each their experiment. They all
make a statistical test on the results, and by mere chance one of them
finds a result that lies within the 5% interval of confidence. This result
gets published as significant, while the 19 negative results don't.
Thus, there are many mechanisms that may distort science. I just want to
start my study where I expect the distortion to be highest.
The purpose of my experiment should be simply to find the selection
criteria that control the development of a particular research tradition.
>Of course, the fundamentally interesting point here, is that the methods you
>are proposing are inherently social scientific ones (e.g. surveys and
>interviews), and thus in a way will be subject to the same kinds of problems
>that you want to interrogate.
Surveys and interviews are perfectly valid scientific methods. I don't want
to trash the social sciences, I want to improve them.
M. Schwartz, Ph.D.
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