On science being broken – and some ideas to help fix it

I just had a two part blog series posted on the Canadian Science Publishing blog, looking at whether or not science is broken – and if it is, how can we fix it.

I’m by no means the only person talking about these topics – this is part of a broader conversation on science culture, science communication, and science and the media that’s being covered by people like Tim Caulfield at the University of Alberta, Ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus at Retraction Watch, Canadian science journalists Julia Belluz and Tom Spears, and many more.

It’s an important and timely conversation, one that should spark significant discussion across the scientific and media communities to both improve the practice of science, and the public’s perception of it.

Part I: Is Science Broken?

“Given the headlines lately, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the public doesn’t trust scientists, and that science ranks no higher than opinion in understanding the world. 

Journal article retractions are receiving widespread coverage, for example a recent paper in Science that claimed people’s views on same-sex marriage could be changed after just 20 minutes of talking to a gay person (the same researcher apparently also falsified results in a study about media and ideology). In 2014, a high profile Japanese project published in Nature was retracted when its claim to be able to create stem cells couldn’t be replicated, and 2010 saw the retraction of a 1998 UK paper from The Lancet about MMR vaccines causing autism for research fraud and unethical methods. Concurrently, conflicting science advice is making people wonder about things as basic as their daily diet: should I drink wine every day? What about coffee? Is chocolate okay – or is it only dark chocolate?

A recent poll by the Pew Centre suggests public faith in science is declining, with a drop in the number of people who think science has made life easier – and in the number who think it has had a positive effect on the quality of health care, food, and the environment. This has led some to suggest that science is broken.”

Part II: If Science is Broken, How Can We Fix It?

“In the previous post we discussed the idea of science being broken, a crisis driven by a combination of the public being less convinced of scientific research than they used to be, and scientists behaving badly.

This post examines potential solutions to these problems, from those focusing on large-scale changes in the type of science we do and how it gets evaluated, to more everyday individual actions.”

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