Scientific research has been having a bit of a hard time lately. Ben Goldacre’s attack on publication bias, the refusal of publications to publish negative or contradictory studies, is picking up steam. Not only that, but statistical errors can be found in not only the “soft” sciences such as psychology but also the hard sciences including medicine. And it should get a hard time. If the scientific process is not as rigorous with itself as it is on data then it fails on first principle.
I love reading about science. I love studying science. I suck at science. In my brief spell as a researcher, I was absolutely terrible. I relied on my partner to be methodical and stringent and collect data ethically. The one thing I did on my own and was surprised to do well was write and report the study. A few days before the deadline, I had to redo over five thousand words of work in one day, during which I also had a horrible flu. I even quit writing for Middle Easy for a while. It turns out all of that effort was in vain. I could have downloaded a program that would write my paper for me, which would have also been published.
More than 120 papers from the journals Springer and IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers) have been removed due to the fact that they are wholly computer generated and completely nonsensical. SCIgen, a program which puts syntactically correct sentences together to create nonsense research papers. Somehow, papers created by this, and similar programs have been submitted to and published by reputable journals. Incredibly, the papers were all supposed to be peer-reviewed as well, making this whole thing even more worrying.