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Is the scientific paper fraudulent? (1964) [pdf] (thegrandlocus.com)
26 points by anacleto 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 12 comments



OP here.

I found this paper after a brief reflection on twitter [0] about how we as humans tend so massively to undervalue the power of imagination in favor of pure inductive/deductive logic.

[0] https://twitter.com/leonardofed/status/1018515656067645441


I wonder, is there a proof somewhere that one CAN'T get to the right answer without some imagination?


I recommend to you the book The Romantic Economist by Richard Bronk


thank you - ordered it.


Disclosure: I don't have any published papers to speak of, though I have some patents. But I write similar things -- technical reports -- within my day job.

I think the scientific paper or report has always been fictionalized to some extent. The earliest scientists may have been more overt about it. It's doubtful that a bunch of soldiers ever tried to burn an enemy ship with mirrors, but that's how Archimedes reported his idea. As I understand it, it's also doubtful what experiments Galileo actually performed on falling bodies before reporting his results.

It seems to me that in a typical paper, one should strive to make the work reproducible, to present the ideas in a form where errors shine out if they are present, and generally to be useful to others.

Using the scientific paper to reveal how science is actually done isn't necessarily a good use of paper or readers' eyeballs. We're bad enough writers as it is, and trying to express a "narrative" in every paper may turn the literature into an unreadable and possibly irreproducible mess. There may be better ways of learning the "narrative" of scientific research, namely by just getting in there and doing it, or at least hanging out with scientists for a while.


Part of the problem, I think, is these days there are more people who want to write than there are people who want to read. So it's an endless battle to draw attention to your own writings. "Look at me! Look over here!" Unless you have some sort of "hook", your paper will never be read outside of a very small circle. Because everyone's too busy writing their own papers to look at yours. In some sense, it reminds me of the story of the Tower of Babel. The harder we try to mass produce science, the harder it is for scientists to make their voices heard above the noise.


As far as I can tell the solution he offers is merely to put the Discussion section of the paper first, and go logically from there. I don't see how this really helps. I write lots of scientific papers. You don't read scientific papers to understand how the science was conducted as a first goal, usually - you want the results that make the paper worth writing in the first place. You read the abstract and conclusions first, and then decide whether the rest of the paper is worth reading.


This is the order I think most of my colleagues read something in their field:

Abstract, results, methods, conclusions.

Experts can glean a lot about the methods from the results, and what not can be obtained from the methods. The conclusions are usually debatable, and mostly in the abstract.

The significance statements are worthless wastes of time.


Scientific research papers are meant to be one of the many ways to share what has been done and found, including thought process at the high level. There are many other ways and opportunities, such as seminars, conferences, and just plain talks over the phone, etc., for people in a field to share a lot more details. I am not sure a "yes" or "no" answer to the question is that relevant.


Researchers have become so scared of being ridiculed by peers, I believe, that they are afraid to admit this candidly. One perceived bad paper could be career ending.


> One perceived bad paper could be career ending.

I don't think this is true. Do you have any data or even any examples to back this up?

Early career researchers aren't well known, so if they publish a bad paper who cares? No one knows who they are anyways and likely won't remember for their next paper. Well established researchers, are well, well established... And can weather these papers by the bulk of the rest of their work.

I don't think i ever judge the quality of a paper by the quality of the other papers the authors have written. I rarely even look to see what other papers that author has written.


It definitely is. A grad school student in my grad lab issued an 11 page retraction of some of our lab's seminal work and basically any chance of her being an academe were torched. Luckily, she wanted to go into industry anyways, and at least one company found value in her honesty.




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