Tag Archives: science

What is pseudoscience?

A recent Nature commentary defines pseudoscience as everything that cannot be empirically tested. Wikipedia is more comprehensive

Pseudoscience consists of statements, beliefs, or practices that claim to be both scientific and factual but are incompatible with the scientific method

with a long footnote pointing towards Oxford English Dictionary 1989

A pretended or spurious science; a collection of related beliefs about the world mistakenly regarded as being based on scientific method or as having the status that scientific truths now have.

Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science 1988 gives probably the best definition

[w]hat is objectionable about these beliefs is that they masquerade as genuinely scientific ones…  claims presented so that they appear [to be] scientific even though they lack supporting evidence and plausibility” … In contrast, science is “a set of methods designed to describe and interpret observed and inferred phenomena, past or present, and aimed at building a testable body of knowledge open to rejection or confirmation”.

Here is my own definition of the scientific method in the ethics lecture 2021 (which is close to the initial statement).

Whistleblower update

Der Schutz von Whistleblower sollte eigentlich nach Willen der EU besser werden. Aber nach unendlichen Verzögerungen, zuletzt vor dem Vermittlungsausschuss des Bundestages, ist es damit nicht weit her, wenn nicht mal mehr anonyme Hinweise möglich sind. Einziger Trost: auch woanders nur”talk, no action”.
So wird das deutsche Gesetz wohl bald wieder einkassiert werden, das meint nicht nur Transparency Deutschland

Leider muss man in aller Deutlichkeit sagen: Der vorliegende Gesetzentwurf zum Schutz von Hinweisgeber:innen ist ein Fiasko. Die Bundesregierung muss dringend nachbessern, denn in der vorliegenden Form brächte das Gesetz neue Rechtsunsicherheiten für Whistleblower:innen, Unternehmen und Behörden. Anstatt den klaren Vorgaben und Empfehlungen der EU zu folgen, hat die Bundesregierung Stückwerk vorgelegt.

Elsevier loosing a journal

Nature reports that editors quit top neuroscience journal to protest against open-access charges

The journals are open access and require authors to pay a fee for publishing services. The APC for NeuroImage is US$3,450; NeuroImage: Reports charges $900, which will double to $1,800 from 31 May.

Creating a PDF and charging authors aka governments with incredible prices? Too much is never enough.

Deviation from preregistration

I know tons of papers that deviate from their initial plan, but I am not aware of so many papers where this can be unequivocally found by comparing pre-registration and publication.

It has been mentioned recently and there seems also a formal analysis in the literature

We observed deviations from the plan in all studies, and, more importantly,  in all but one study, at least one of these deviations was not fully disclosed.

Further research required,

The ass is dominant over the head

This is a citation from the 2022 Faintuch  book “Integrity of Scientific Research” at page 137.  “Fraud, Misconduct, and Unethical Practices in Biomedical Research in China” by Lei and Qiu covers close collaborations between scientists and industry which is now standard in most universities and research centers

“The ass is dominant over the head” (pigu jueding naodai) … which means that a persons’s decision is made by her/his position. Faced with conflicts of interests, scientists tend to consider more their own or the company’s interests when they have close interaction with this company, This is why research must be regulated and supervised by regulatory bodies.

The system itself is untenable

The review system is broken – not only by the sheer number of “me too” papers but also by the lack of reviewers who are willing to spend their time on these papers. This is also the result of a new essay Continue reading The system itself is untenable

Was tun gegen Wissenschaftsbetrug?

Dirnagl/LJ hat die Antwort

Besteht die Lösung des Problems also darin, Wissenschafts­betrug härter zu sanktionieren? Schaden würde das sicher nicht. Schließlich kann man die Fälle, in denen bislang Strafen verhängt wurden, an einer Hand abzählen. Wissenschafts­betrug wird also nicht nur selten aufgedeckt, sondern noch seltener geahndet.

Müssen wir mehr gute wissen­schaftliche Praxis lehren und trainieren? Auch das ist eine gute Idee, aber sehr viel nützen wird es wohl nicht. …

Brauchen wir vielleicht eine Wissenschafts­polizei, die unangekündigte Kontrollen von Western Blots und Festplatten in Laboren durchführt? Ganz sicher nicht! Moderne Wissenschaft ist viel zu komplex …

Ein viel naheliegender Ansatz zur Abhilfe ist es, sich dem Kern des Problems anzunehmen und das toxische Karriere- und Bewertungs­system zu reformieren – also Forscher nicht auf Basis fragwürdiger Metriken, sondern mit Fokus auf Forschungs­qualität, Inhalte und dem tatsächlichen wissen­schaftlichen oder gesell­schaftlichen Impact zu beurteilen.


Steht [der Begriff] unter einem Beitrag als Antwort, wird darauf hingewiesen, dass der ursprüngliche Post mehr Antworten als „Retweets“, „Likes“, „Gefällt mir“-, oder „Fav“-Angaben hat. Es kann auch verwendet werden, wenn ein „DruKo“, also eine Antwort unter einem Beitrag, mehr „Likes“ hat als der Ausgangsbeitrag. Manchmal wird auch „ratioed“ verwendet. (GIGA)

“Ratio” sollte vielleicht auch als PubMed Flag bei Zeitschriften eingeführt werden, wenn es mehr PubPeer Kommentare als Zitierungen gibt.

Systemic science flaw

Bruce Alberts, one of the most reputable living scientist, already back in a 2014 PNAS paper

The long-held but erroneous assumption of never-ending rapid growth in biomedical science has created an unsustainable hypercompetitive system that is discouraging even the most outstanding prospective students from entering our profession—and making it difficult for seasoned investigators to produce their best work…

The great majority of biomedical research is conducted by aspiring trainees: by graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. As a result, most successful biomedical scientists train far more scientists than are needed to replace him- or herself…

Competition in pursuit of experimental objectives has always been a part of the scientific enterprise, and it can have positive effects. However, hypercompetition for the resources and positions that are required to conduct science suppresses the creativity, cooperation, risk-taking, and original thinking required to make fundamental discoveries…

The inflated value given to publishing in a small number of so-called “high impact” journals has put pressure on authors to rush into print, cut corners, exaggerate their findings, and overstate the significance of their work.

there is nothing to add.

Does identification of misconduct in studies affect medical guidelines?

This question has been answered by an earlier study of Avenell et al.

By 2016 the affected trial reports were cited in 1158 publications, including 68 systematic reviews, meta-analyses, narrative reviews, guidelines and clinical trials. We judged that 13 guidelines, systematic or other reviews would likely change their findings if the affected trial reports were removed, and in another eight it was unclear if findings would change. By 2018, only one of the 68 citing publications, a systematic review, appeared to have undertaken a reassessment, which led to a correction.
We found evidence that this group of affected trial reports distorted the evidence base. Correction of these distortions is slow, uncoordinated and inconsistent. Unless there is a rapid, systematic, coordinated approach by bibliographic databases, authors, journals and publishers to mitigate the impact of known cases of research misconduct, patients, other researchers and their funders may continue to be adversely affected.

Katzenjammer I

Auf Science Twitter ist die Stimmung am Tiefpunkt nachdem Wissenschaftler scharenweise den Dienst verlassen.


obwohl doch klar ist, daß Continue reading Katzenjammer I

Pitbull reviewer

Virginia Walbot “Are we training pit bulls to review our manuscripts?”

Who hasn’t reacted with shock to a devastatingly negative review of a manuscript representing years of work by graduate students and postdoctoral fellows on a difficult, unsolved question? … dismissing the years of labor and stating that the manuscript can only be reconsidered with substantially more data providing definitive proof of each claim. … Your manuscript is declined, with encouragement to resubmit when new data are added.
I confess. I’m partly responsible for training the pit-bull reviewer, and I bet you are too.

How to push the impact of 2,299 scientists with 8,000 citations each?

Answer: Be co-author of an autophagy guideline

this is another episode of guidelines paper. More participants listed here – Affiliations listed stopped at 2299 – this means that there are 2299 authors in the manuscript. Unbelievable – how did they manage to get a consensus on what is written. May the first author explain, how the authorship on this guidelines is decided?

The slow abandonment of the academic mindset

Mittelman  on the  “The World-Class University and Repurposing Higher Education” 2018:

… the central academic purposes of the university are imperiled. While not universally adopted, they began to take root in the nineteenth century, developed gradually in the nineteenth and twentieth, and encounter novel tensions in the twenty-first. In this century, the triad of core educational missions in nonauthoritarian societies—cultivating democratic citizenship, fostering critical thinking, and protecting academic freedom — is losing footing. A new form of utilitarianism is gaining ground. It prioritizes useful knowledge and problem-solving skills at the expense of basic inquiry…

A few pages later Mittelman notices that universities

… have become preoccupied with strategic planning, benchmarking, branding, visibility, rankings, productivity indices, quality assurance systems, students as customers, and measurable outcomes. Before the 1980s, members of the higher education community rarely expressed themselves in these terms.

And it is true – we have been struggling even after 1980 with the mysteries of nature, by designing experiments and studies, trying to make new discoveries and teaching them to our students.

Fast rewind to the “idea of  a university” and the “cultivated intellect” by John Henry Newman (p15) and the usefulness of useless knowledge  of Abraham Flexner. In the last century clearly a need for unanticipated outcome was felt while today basically every research program starts with  a lengthy introduction that this is the most important research because disease D is so frequent or technology T is so important for the environment. Mittelman quotes Daniel Zajfman, 10th president of Israel’s Weizmann Institute, when talking about university rankings

When we look at the values of knowledge for the sake of knowledge, we realise 100 years later what we can do with this. If you look at the history of science, you will find that most of the discoveries were never made by trying to solve a problem, rather by trying to understand how nature works, so our focus is on understanding.

More humility needed

Hoekstra and Vazire on “Aspiring to greater intellectual humility in science

Although intellectual humility is presented as a widely accepted scientific norm, we argue that current research practice does not incentivize intellectual humility. We provide a set of recommendations on how to increase intellectual humility in research articles

Indeed – many recommendations are counterproductive for a science career…


and well, a divergent view at PubPeer.