Science Gone Stupid

Guest post by David Middleton

This is perhaps the dumbest article I’ve ever read…

How to avoid the stigma of a retracted paper? Don’t call it a retraction

AMSTERDAM—In 2012 Richard Mann, a mathematician at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, received some very bad news from a friend and colleague. Because of a coding error, the friend explained, Mann had included only 1/100 of his data in a modeling paper on the collective motion of glass prawns, published earlier that year in PLOS Computational Biology. As a result, the paper was deeply flawed.

Mann wanted to set the record straight, but as he began researching his options, despair set in. Retractions are strongly associated with research misconduct. “I became worried about public shaming,” Mann said last week at the fifth World Conference on Research Integrity here. He went ahead, but only after many sleepless nights.

His story and others like it have inspired two recent attempts to develop new terms for retractions that would make it easier for researchers, universities, and journals to admit errors. One would retire the dreaded r-word altogether. “You have to change the language,” says Nicholas Steneck, who heads the Research Ethics and Integrity Program of the Michigan Institute for Clinical and Health Research in Ann Arbor.

[…]

Science

Correct me if I’m wrong, but scientists’ feelings aren’t supposed to be part of the scientific method.

As if this wasn’t stupid enough, I received this truly idiotic email from the AAAS while I was reading the aforementioned stupid AAAS article…

Another blow to the planet

It happened: President Trump decided to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord.

This streak of anti-science actions from the current administration is worrisome. The EPA has already sustained harsh staff cuts, and the threat of devastating funding cuts looms over the NOAA, NIH, and Department of Energy.

It’s up to us, as science advocates, to do everything we can to fight crippling cuts to these organizations, and to support research that can save our communities and our planet. As an AAAS member, you will help us continue to protect the advancement of science and give policymakers the tools they need to make evidenced-based decisions. Become an AAAS member today because together we are a stronger force for science.

Every AAAS membership supports our efforts to:
• Educate Congress about the importance of science funding,
• Convene scientific societies in opposition to funding cuts, and
• Rally fellow AAAS members to represent pro-science ideals in the media.
Join today and become a force for science. We can’t lose momentum and we urgently need your support to continue this important work.

For science,
American Association for the Advancement of Science

P.S. Explore one of the many benefits of AAAS membership: Download a digital copy of the newest issue of the journal Science now.
*Offer valid from May 31, 2017 to June 30, 2017, for new individual members only. There is a limit of one water bottle per membership order. Please allow up to four weeks for domestic delivery and up to five weeks for international delivery. The AAAS water bottle is provided as is without any guarantees or warranty and cannot be exchanged or returned. In association with the product, AAAS makes no warranties of any kind, either express or implied, including but not limited to warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

Words literally do fail me…

 

When Science becomes concerned about scientists’ feelings and political agendas, it ceases to be science.

I actually have a copy of this book…

Science_Made_Stupid

Science Made Stupid: How to Discomprehend the World Around Us is a 1985 book written and illustrated by Tom Weller. The winner of the 1986 Hugo Award for Best Non-Fiction Book, it is a parody of a junior high or high school-level science textbook. Though now out of print, high-resolution scans are available online, as well as an abridged transcription, both of which have been endorsed by Weller [1]. Highlights of the book include a satirical account of the creationism vs. evolution debate and Weller’s drawings of fictional prehistoric animals (e.g., the duck-billed mastodon.)

Wikipedia

The AAAS just topped Mr. Weller’s book twice in one morning.

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195 thoughts on “Science Gone Stupid

  1. “I became worried about public shaming,” Mann said last week

    Hmmm…

    What’s this – another Mann-made problem in “science”?

    • Mann has no problem shaming people. But as soon as do to him what he does to others, suddenly it becomes a crime. What is good for the goose is good for the gander.

    • And … what about Stephen Hawking? I mean what sort of a scientist is he? He accepts the science of man made global warming. What an idiot. He knows nothing compared with all the highly qualified people that make comments on this site. Stephen Hawking ….. huh! A so-called scientist!

      • I was unaware that there was a doctrine of scientific infallibility. Or that anyone was required to accept it.

      • Note the word “accepts” as opposed to “confirms” or even “supports”. To accept something is to take what’s given to you. In this case a pop-physicist taking the views of pop-climatologists as given. Hawking has done 0 independent research into the topic, but he gladly regurgitates the words of others lending his fame and credibility to concepts that are completely out of the range of his field.

        Hawking is just as guilty of sensationalizing his science for public consumption as the AGWers but since his sensational end of the universe scenarios are trillions of years off and thus 100% impossible to confirm or deny by observation, who cares?

      • Even Einstein was wrong about some things. We should resist the tendency to assign near deity status to scientists just because they make breakthrough discoveries in one area.

      • he has made a lot of very strange statements – vying for relevance one might think.

    • Well I abandoned my AAAS membership some years ago, because of the politics displacing the SCIENCE.

      Now I am getting politification messages from OAS and SPIE too, asking me to stand up (or pay up) for science.

      When US “scientists” suggest we should help the French build a concrete tomb, to house some fictitious bottled energy of the sun, source, I am inclined to think that the US already knows a lot about concrete, so we shouldn’t waste grant moneys on concrete tombs.

      When they get to where they have a physically sound design for a bottled sun energy machine, maybe we could get on board then.

      I notice, in passing, that the sun itself, is not in any sort of a bottle. But then the sun is just one of uncountable billions or stars, but so far, nobody has described even one of those as being in any sort of bottle.

      It would seem that Mother Gaia seems to be able to power the stars, without any bottles. Well of course Gravity sucks !

      So why do we suppose we can build a bottle that MN herself has never built.

      I wonder if the French Concrete tomb actually uses 3% sticky rice for greater integrity. It seems to work well for the Great Wall(s) of China.

      G

  2. Pretty unfair commentary David. Retraction = fraud, which is a lot worse than making an honest error somewhere. Words have meaning, and there should be a different word for a retraction due to fraud and a retraction due to error. Nothing stupid about that.

      • I go by OED. Seems like Noah set out quite deliberately to change already existing words, both spellings and meanings. And for no reason other than to be different.

        G

    • Screwing up with your own data set isn’t an “honest error,” it’s sloppy, lazy, and beneath contempt. There are too many academics that are just pumping-out crap these days, and it is fraudulent for them to play that game. In my business an error like this would come right out of my own bank account, both directly and in loss of reputation, (and yes benben I do have a PhD and I do work with data sets that routinely run in the 10’s of T-bytes)

      • Oh quit complaining. It passed peer review – right? So how bad could the error be?

      • It can happen. One just has to man up and admit it. No one is going to pin a scarlet R (or F) on somebody for that.

      • Incidentally, I just found out that Turing’s famous paper on computability was followed a little later by a short note with some corrections. Not a retraction in this case, but an admission of mistakes made – in that case without devastating effect.

      • sloppy and lazy in this contexts is as bad a fraud … there should be a fiduciary responsibility just like in the money management world …

      • Do real people like John Q Citizen, reach into their own pocket, for money to put down freely, in exchange for the final products of your T-bytes of data set processing ??

        G

    • I don’t agree that retraction equates with fraud. There are many reasons a published paper may be defective enough to require retraction (and the threshold seems to be far too high in my opinion). Reasons certainly include fraud, but that is perhaps the least frequent cause of faulty publication. Others include mathematical errors, misused statistics, poor research design, faulty measurements, process errors such as unintentional unblinding, etc. all may be indicative of poor skill on the part of researchers but don’t necessarily imply fraud.

      • Yeah… A dry hole is a dry hole. The reasons why it was a dry hole don’t affect the fact that it was a dry hole. The same principle holds for the word “retraction.”

      • andrewpattullo
        Agreed, but most of the reasons you list – certainly –
        “mathematical errors, misused statistics, poor research design, faulty measurements, process errors such as unintentional unblinding,” could reasonably (albeit not 100% certainly) be discovered before publication.
        Peer review and that.

        Even for in-house presentations, I always get someone else [sometimes two people] to at least look them over.
        Not peer review as I understand it – but certainly ‘fresh eyes’.

        Auto

      • In my field of study I was often a blind peer reviewer. On more than several occasions all of the reasons you list were caught by either myself or one of the other reviewers. The papers got published without correction. I reviewed papers for a couple of federal government journals they were the worst in ignoring peer reviewers comments. However, the editors of the journals and bosses of the agency would proudly announce at meeting the papers they published were “peer reviewed.”

      • Well extrications that result from discovery of new information that was not available at the time of original release to publication, serve to terminate needless further propagation of mis-information. (AKA “fake news”)

        As for example, none of the talking heads at CNN have yet realized, that no actual real person has actually accused or alleged that any other actual real person of any specific illegal act that resulted in the election of the current POTUS with specific help from “the Russians”. They haven’t even specified who “the Russians” were.

        I once thought that naturally occurring CO2 snow could be found routinely in Antarctica; even said so publicly on this forum.

        A small elbow nudge from Phil pointed me to the “Aha!” recognition of the crucial issue that the stable existence of CO2 snow, depended more on the unavailability of more CO2 molecules in the atmosphere (at 400 ppmm), to condense, than it did on the rate at which CO2 molecules on the high energy MB tail could “evaporate” from any such snow that might exist.

        Some others never caught on, despite Phil’s nudge in the right direction.

        Those “Ahas ! ” really are wondrous events.

        G

    • Why not just call it a “retraction” and let the scientific community at large decide if it meets the standard of “fraud” or “error”. BTW, what is the difference between “honest error” and “error”?

      • Honest error is merely incompetence with no intent. Error that is intentionally committed with intent to bias the results is FRAUD. Both are errors because both are incorrect, but the latter is not a mistake.

      • or why not just state in the retraction ‘retracted due to fraud’, or ‘retracted due to error’. Simple solution.

        The problem here with David’s so-called analysis is that he doesn’t really care about the actual issue, he is just looking for an excuse to ridicule scientists. Not that you’d expect anything else at WUWT of course.

      • A “scientist” who can’t handle the “stigma” of having a paper retracted is entirely worthy of ridicule.

        A “scientist” whose paper is retracted due to fraud should be doing time in prison.

      • Hmm I think prison is a bit too dramatic, but banned for life from science for sure. Fraud is basically the worst offense you can do in science, which is exactly why it carries such a stigma to have a your work associated with fraud. So with your comment David, you nicely summarize why journals should be making a clear distinction between retraction due to fraud or due to error. What exact words you want to use is besides the point I think. The point of the article you reference to is that the distinction isn’t clear enough. The point of your article is just pointless trolling of science without any serious thought about the topic. You can and should do better, David.

      • The point is that the word “retraction” is ethically neutral. It is mindbogglingly stupid to attempt “to develop new terms for retractions that would make it easier for researchers, universities, and journals to admit errors.”

        The unwillingness to admit errors because you don’t want to look bad is, in itself, a form of fraud. It is fundamentally unscientific and antithetical to professional ethics.

      • there are many things mindbogglingly stupid (doing the dirty work of petro states by denying climate change certainly being on that list;), but worrying about the career ruining effect of seeing your name pop up on retractionwatch.com is not one of them. Anyway, time to go back to doing actual science. Cheers David! I always appreciate you actually replying to comments.

      • benben June 8, 2017 at 8:33 am
        “Hmm I think prison is a bit too dramatic”

        If the scientist is asking for and getting grant moneys it is more then mere fraud, it is stealing. Also reckless endangerment if the intent is to create a policy change. There is only so much economic resources to go around. Diverting resources to please or satisfy an activist’s obsession when those funds could be used to built hospitals schools and other infer-structure is a criminal activity.
        Yes, prison by all means.

        michael

      • benben, I realize that being stuck on stupid is the only mental skill you have ever managed to master, but this BS about doing the work of the oil states is really beyond the pale.
        1) Nobody denies that the climate changes.
        2) Only a tiny fraction of skeptics claim that CO2 has no impact on temperature.
        3) The entire argument is about how much it changes.
        4) When you are reduced to lying about what others are saying, you are merely emphasizing the fact that you have no facts or arguments to back your own position.

      • haha MarkW, for someone calling me stupid you’re displaying a worrying lack of analytical skills. I didn’t spell it out for David as I hold is intelligence in quite high regard. The obvious logic goes like this:

        1) petro states want high fossil fuel demand
        2) renewables reduce fossil fuel demand
        3) WUWT argues against renewables, and even directly for more fossil fuel consumption via the ‘fossil fuel solves energy poverty’ and ‘CO2 fertilization’ narratives
        4) QED

        [??? .mod]

      • for David as I hold is intelligence

        That calls into question your own intelligence, so drop that line of attack.

        But please show us where WUWT is against any renewable energy. Links are good, direct quotes better.

        Be forewarned, that stating facts about them does not make one pro or anti – merely truthful. A habit you would be wise to pick up.

      • Did you watch the pea in benben’s little game of misdirection? Let’s look at it again.

        1) petro states want high fossil fuel demand
        2) renewables reduce fossil fuel demand

        He tried to trick you by lumping all the carbon based fuels under the name ‘fossil fuel’. Now let’s try that again without the misdirection.

        1) petro states want high oil demand
        2) renewables reduce coal and natural gas demand (in theory)

        Well, how many people here believe that the ‘petro states’ are going to spend any money protecting coal or natural gas producers from competition?

        ~¿~

    • Yeah, I cannot find one synonym for “retraction” that means “fraud”.

      Until today, I NEVER associated the word with any such thing.

      It leads me to wonder how the word comes to mean such a think in a particular circle, unless, perhaps, within this particular circle, fraud might be a common cause for retraction.

      I would, then, suggest that “97%” of “climate scientists” RETRACT much of what they have been writing for decades now.

      • There is nothink wronk.

        Yes, I think retraction means the paper is flawed, and that can happen; it is not a fra ud. Of course the trouble starts when the results change. That you admit your error, should be rather awarded than punished, but how to do that?

      • Instead of “Retraction”, to make sure that people know it wasn’t fraud, they should just say “This paper was like Retarded and its Sh*t was all messed up and stuff.”
        That has the added benefit of matching the current intellectual climate at most of today s journals.

    • Retraction does not mean fraud. It means there was a mistake or misinterpretation somewhere and that you no longer believe your data and/or conclusions. Fraud is only one reason why a paper might be retracted. Retraction can be voluntary and done at the request of the authors or it can be done by the journal. It is rarely considered a good thing, but if it were widely known that the authors were being good scientists and honest and retracting their own work, then it can even help ones’ career and reputation. If it happens to a young scientist, it can be devastating. But, it often shows that the paper was published prematurely or rushed and not vetted enough internally before submission. May suggest a degree of sloppiness as well.

      • There are a hundred reasons why a paper might be retracted. It may be corrected in some manner and sent in again. I also don’t associate it with the word ‘fraud’ because an error is not necessarily deliberate. The data omissions from MBH98, for instance, were deliberate and the omission was that portion of the available data that produced the ‘wrong’ answer. The absent-minded omission of 99% of the data described above was not.

        I do not see that a ‘young scientist’ has a ruined career because of a mistake. There is nothing perfect about ‘scientists’. They are not ‘defrocked’ because they realise errors and withdraw papers that are found to be defective. Such a paper is unreliable and we should have a corpus of material available for research that is reliable, at least as understood at the time.

        If academics were not so intent on destroying the careers of people who make a mistake, we would have more retractions and more corrections and better training materials from better libraries. The bitter battles between academic ideologues and profiteers thrives on an us-against-them partitioning that doesn’t deserve to survive. If ‘scientists’ are so high, mighty and moral, they can start by climbing down from their perches to behave more like men and less like crows. [‘men’ is a generic term for human]

      • There is this great scene in the Tom Hanks series, From the Earth to the Moon in the episode called Spider.
        A young engineer in charge of the design of one of the legs of the moon lander (LEM) has the leg fail in a test. He pours over his design notes for hours and finally finds a mistake in his calculations. He walks into the Project Manager’s office to resign. The project Manager says that while mistakes aren’t a good thing, it’s best they are found on the ground before we launch … and refuses to accept his resignation.

    • Hmmm well, I’m not going to reply to every comment individually. Retraction is very strongly associated with fraud in most scientific fields. That may not correlate exactly to the dictionary form of the word, but its just the way it’s used in that specific setting. David is commenting on an article from that setting (i.e. science). This article is taking a serious discussion that should be applauded (dealing with data errors in science) and turning it into a salvo in the american cultural wars. Doesn’t help anyone. Sad!
      Mark from Midwest, good for you that you have a 10tb dataset without any errors! Now get off your high horse and deal with the fact that people less perfect than you make mistakes every now and then.
      Cheers,
      ben

      • Really now. retractionwatch.com disagrees with you.

        These kind of comments Just show that you have no idea how science works. Which is fine. Just don’t pretend you do.

      • Retraction is very strongly associated with fraud in most scientific fields.

        Doesn’t that in itself tell us something very revealing, in a quite negative way, about the state of “most scientific fields” at the present time?

      • This thread is not about making mistakes but rather how to cover them up which is fraud and if he got off his high horse how would he be able to look you in the eye on yours?

      • benben June 8, 2017 at 8:21 am

        This is the point many people are dancing around. Peer review.
        That is where such a mistake should have been found. The question of the paper under discussion is lamentably one of peer review. Who did the author send his paper to, his best buddy?

        You don’t want your worst enemy but you do want someones who will look at it as a personal challenge to find an error.

        Again the error in the paper under discussion was butt head stupid. The author deserves all the embarrassment and stigma from a retraction. In the end it will make a better researcher and scientist of him.

        “what does not kill us makes us stronger” He will live.

        michael

      • But the reviewer(s) who failed to catch the error get off scott free. NOBODY can hold them accountable, because NOBODY knows who they were.

        Reviewers MUST be identified by name – and honored by that recognition (when appropriate)! and castigated (by that recognition – in EVERY paper that is published.

      • Benben, you’ve just made a confession that in your mind retraction is associated with fraud. You’ve been drinking far too much Klimate Kool Aid. And to think you tried to pin your own mental state onto David Middleton.

        For your own sake develop a sense of shame and retract your earlier smear.

      • That [fraud] may not correlate exactly to the dictionary form of the word [retraction]

        It doesn’t correlate because it means something different.
        There are lots of words in the dictionary that mean different things.
        I dunno but I’d have thought dictionary denial is just as bad as climate denial.

      • Mike the Morlock is correct. The case described is pretty dramatic and should have been caught. The whole peer review system is pretty crappy. I’d rather have a public review system like arXiv.

    • “bb en June 8, 2017 at 5:55 am
      Pretty unfair commentary David. Retraction = fraud,”

      Speaking of unfair commentary; just exactly what are you claiming bby?
      Besides your conflating retraction with fraud; you are so willing to leap in and skip due process? Invent a new retraction word to imply innocent stupidity or incompetence, while keeping another retraction word for vile corruption and fraudulent actions?
      Normally, that’s what a jury does. Though it is no surprise bby ben and it’s ilk prefer to judge and condemn first.
      There is that curiosity, as David Stone mentions below, that a fully peer reviewed published paper suddenly discovers such massive errors?
      The author’s program code, instead of skipping every other data entry, skipped every other entry 102 times; which happened to be the total number of experiments.
      Why would a researcher write such a module? What kind of solution is that type of code supposed to accomplish?
      Then what researcher doesn’t verify and validate every movement or handling of every data item?
      Well, Richard Mann obviously doesn’t.
      Nor are his peers observant or diligent enough to verify/validate.
      Bad attention to detail, method, programming, data, etc.
      Just how innocent a retraction word does bby want?

    • Anybody that thinks retraction = fraud is an idiot. That’s like saying every time your computer OS or phone gets an update, that’s an admission that they intentionally put bugs into the software. Scientists are just like other people; they can and do make mistakes.

      • anyone thinking that retraction is not associated with fraud does not know how science works. But please take a look at retractionwatch.com, which tracks scientific retractions. And also please report back with your findings on the tone used to discuss scientific retractions.

    • You can correct me if I am wrong, but it appears to be the quoted part of the article that pairs retraction with misconduct, not the posting author. Besides, retraction doesn’t imply anything other than the author has pulled the piece. Creating a new word to cover the same thing is part of what is wrong with English to start with. Less words for the same thing makes more sense to me than nitpicking definitions so you can distinguish between insignificant reasoning. The author merely had to say “article retracted for clarification,” and let it go at that. Doesn’t impose a sense of “guilt” or “shame.” Sounds like an oversized ego issue, not a scientific issue.

    • I find self initiated self-retraction to be a sign of high scientific ethics, where as a forced retraction by a publisher to be a sign of scientific turpitude or at least scientific ineptitude.

    • post error stress disorder, i recommend integrity if it doesn’t work up the dosage.

    • Benben, in your enthusiasm you have misread the article. It was not David who made the connection between retraction and fraud. It was the failed author himself.

      Mann, oh Mann. You trolls are getting stupider by the day.

    • “He went ahead, but only after many sleepless nights.”

      Does that mean he went ahead with the publication or the retraction? It’s not clear. But if he went ahead with the publication knowing it was flawed, it is no longer an honest error. It is fraud.

  3. Though now out of print, high-resolution scans are available online…

    I see Amazon has a few used copies, for just under $8.

  4. You have got to be joking! This is a supposedly refereed paper, and the reviewers should be shamed and named too. He accidentally left out 99% of the data….that sounds exactly like all his other papers which also ignored inconvenient data, and came to mega flawed conclusions. He should be sacked and jailed for fraud.

  5. I want to know more about “the motion of glass prawns”.
    Sounds like a real page-turner.

    • I presume these are the prawns that were often served in a glass in the 1970’s under the name “Prawn Cocktail”. Movement of these would be an interesting study.

      • If you are ever in a top tier Chinese Seafood Restaurant look for Drunken Prawns on the menu. I was fortunate enough to spend four months in Singapore, working in a shipyard, and was taken to some very nice Chinese restaurants. My Chinese hosts would order specialties for my edification, and Drunken Prawns was just such a specialty. The wait-person brings a glass bowl of live prawns to the table, pours a glass of brandy over them and quickly covers the bowl. This makes the shrimp very unhappy and they flip and jump with celerity. Finally, they stop moving and are taken back to the kitchen to be gently steamed. They have a very subtle flavor which cannot be fully appreciated by a water buffalo like me. Still, it was a significant cross cultural experience.

      • Jon, I prefer Cajun Drunken Chicken. Just stick a partly full beer can with a bunch of Cajun spices up their butts and sit ’em on the barbie. Nothing subtle about that flavor. :>)

      • Joe, I hope those chickens are dead first, unlike those prawns? Could get noisy otherwise….

  6. Many of these publications appear to be the equivalent of participation trophies given out in youth sports. You can’t have winners and losers any more. Lord knows you can’t reject the papers, regardless of how poor the underlying science may be. It might hurt the author’s feelings. Worse yet, they may lose tenure. Then who would write the tripe that fills these “scientific” journals that keep the publishers employed.

  7. I have a great suggestion for a word to replace “retraction” — how about “Oops”

    But then this would get associated with being a dumb ass, somebody would be “deeply worried” and experience many “sleepless nights” about THIS word, and then the whole process would start all over again.

    Of course, I might have to retract this suggestion, if a better one comes along.

      • How about Whoopsie? They could then change Retraction Watch to Whoopsie Watch.
        Much of this problem is to do with clinging to cherished theories in the face of countervailing evidence i.e. misleading themselves. However, that is perilously close to fraud once the paper is published. And, yes, some may say it isn’t close, it just is. But with the astronomy papers I see where this is happening, it really is a form of extreme wishful thinking, emperor’s clothing, groupthink. I gets perpetuated via using overwrought models using scant data as inputs. That way you can prove what you like and ignore the countervailing evidence that comes from a new or different data set. I don’t think that is quite fraud because the new data set may not absolutely prove them wrong. But it may do if investigated further…so they don’t investigate it further.

      • scute1133

        If it became whoopsie watch, people committing fraud would declare that it was an honest booboo and they will be right back with the corrected version.

  8. Retraction is a perfectly fine term for the case of an author discovering a flaw and not wanting the erroneous work propagated.

    What is needed is a different term for a paper involuntarily retracted because of deceit or other malpractice.

    Sh*t-canned seems somehow appropriate, but maybe there are more diplomatic words/phrases so as not to hurt too many feelings.

      • Well yeah, or with sports terms, disqualified. Indeed! What about if paper can be retracted (by author) or disqualified (by somebody else). That would mean you as an author had reason to admit your mistake before your paper is retracted for you.

      • Lots of papers have been discredited but not retracted. There is a big difference between discredited and disproven. One is junk science and one came to incorrect conclusions. Many, many claims for CAGW have been discredited – they were never going to be vindicated because of erroneous foundation(s).

      • How about “a typo”?
        That went over quite well last year for a paper (the authors of which escape me).

    • Absolutely correct. The problem is not with retraction – which quite correctly refers to the authors of a paper accepting responsibility for an error and taking action themselves. No, the problem is that authors whose research has been shown to be fraudulent are allowed to “retract” their paper instead of having the journal remove it with predjudice. Journals need to have a better procedure for removing fraudulent research than having the authors retract it.
      At the same time, I do have some sympathy with the author referred to in the article – depending on the field he is in, a retraction might have serious affect on career progression. But the longer an author delays, the worse this will be and – in fact – delaying the publication of errors in your work should be a black mark on future advancement. To err is scientific, to hide your error by delaying publication of it may be human, but it is wrong.

    • I am neither a mathematician nor a physicists but would be willing to participate in field exploration of G-strings “in the wild” to help determine whether they are indeed “super”.

  9. I’m amused by the notion that once funded, no department should face cuts.
    Well the AAAS knows how to get its bread buttered; fighting the bogeyman.

  10. Science died quite a while back. Politics took over. Everything is politics. I don’t understand why people keep sending their kids to be indoctrinated by this and then complain there’s indoctrination. Educating your child to accept propaganda is anti-science yet parents are quite content to let this happen. The only thing that makes sense is people WANT this and are completely happy with it. Only a few rogue skeptics want science to actually function as science was meant to.

    • I agree

      Freshmen and seniors at about 200 colleges across the U.S. take a little-known test every year to measure how much better they get at learning to think. The results are discouraging. Exclusive Test Data: Many Colleges Fail to Improve Critical Thinking Skills

      There was a time when Liberal Arts was a grueling and rigorous full of Mathematics, Science, philosophy and Literature; now it can mean little more than basket-weaving and a Bachelor’s degree is a less rigorous than my Dad’s High School Diploma. How could one ever hope to recognize propaganda when they are so intellectually disarmed?

  11. Retraction does not equate fraud. However the described case I would consider scientific misconduct. Not noticing that 99% of your data is missing from your modeling exercise implies a degree of carelessness that qualifies as misconduct.
    Yes, I know it was a coding error, but that is an explanation, not an excuse. How about validating your model? How about the good ol’ order of magnitude manual check? This blind faith in untested computer models is a malignant cancer eating away at the vitals of science.

  12. This story is really a bit odd.

    If the paper was basically sound and the error consisted simply in a glitch with making the data available, I’m sure most journals would be happy to publish a formal “Correction” that would explain the mistake and advise the readers where to obtain those missing data; there would have been no need for a retraction. I have published corrections once or twice myself when I found a minor error after the paper had gone to press. It happens.

    • If he had omitted 1% and used 99%, I would say a correction would be quite reasonable. Tweak a few numbers here and there and call it a day. However, in this case, I have little doubt that the error changed his findings significantly. If your conclusion has to be reversed, it needs a full retraction and resubmittal.

      • As the author himself stated in his retraction the error did change some of his findings.
        “After correcting the bug and reanalyzing the full data set we found that our results had changed significantly, and some of our conclusions were no longer valid.”
        Not sure why the reviewers would be expected to spot such a coding error, in the many papers I have reviewed I was never supplied with the relevant source code to check for errors!

      • You don’t typically include a lot of data in the paper itself – you just have some 4-8 pages to work with, in which you highlight and summarize key findings and conclusions. Most of the actual data, if they indeed are published at all, would be made available as “supplementary materials.”

        It is inconceivable that 99% of the material in the paper itself would be missing without anyone noticing. What the story, as reported, suggests is that at the review stage nobody bothered to look at the supplementary materials. In this case, the paper could stand, the supplementary materials be updated, and a correction be issued.

      • It should have a corrigendum printed in the same journal, as M Mann has done, correcting “printed errors”. Retraction means there is something seriously wrong. 99% of the data missing is pretty serious error. Retract, because it will probably affect all conclusions that were written about the outputs.

        If the written analysis was for all the data, but the code was mis-typed in the supplementary materials, issue a corrigendum.

      • No, Crispin. What it said was that the code omitted 99% of his data when calculating. For example, if he had 6 million data points but used an 16 bit counter variable on a loop, it would only look at the first 65,000 items before the loop ends.

    • I suspect the issue is, once you include all the data, the paper is no longer “sound” at all. That’s what is alluded to by the “despair” that set in when the “scientist” was “considering his options” in “setting the record straight.” If a “correction” that considered all of the data didn’t invalidate the original conclusions, I’m sure that would have been an easy solution, and one invoked without “despair.” It was when his “efforts” to “set the record straight” gave him no other option than “retraction,” which is an admission that his conclusions were not valid if he corrected the “error,” that caused “despair” to set in.

      • There are so many scare quotes in that reply that I am now terrified and hiding under my desk!

    • OK, I was wrong, and herewith retract my comment ;)

      The linked page says that ” … A bug was found in the Matlab code used in this study, which resulted in only a small proportion of the full data set being analysed. … After correcting the bug and reanalyzing the full data set we found that our results had changed significantly, and some of our conclusions were no longer valid.”

      So it is indeed the paper itself that was flawed, not just incomplete supplementary materials.

    • My understanding was that he only used 1% of his data in the analysis, not that he only presented 1% of his data in the paper. That would have only required an addendum, not a retraction.

      • MarkW June 8, 2017 at 4:27 pm

        No Mark it was an honest mistake, he appears to have wrote the code and had an error in it. Over self confidence I guess.
        You never spot your own mistakes. (Well sometimes)
        below is the quote from the link announcing the retraction. No one likes admitting they screwed up as badly as he did.

        No real harm done, most likely a bit of good. Next time he writes code he will hopefully have someone proof it.

        “The responsibility for this coding error is entirely mine (Richard Mann). My coauthors were not involved in coding this stage of the analysis. I am grateful to Michael Osborne (University of Oxford) and David Duvenaud (University of Cambridge) who spotted this error when I passed the code and data on to them, while aiming to replicate our results for their own project. We will be assessing the conclusions to be drawn from our reanalysis of the data and submitting a revised paper for publication in the future.”

        michael

  13. Looks like the AAAS is brutally misspelling several words as “science”. I’m not sure what words they’re trying to say. Can you help? Mad-lib! Fill in the proper words:

    “This streak of anti-________ actions from the current administration is worrisome.”
    “It’s up to us, as _______advocates, to do everything we can…”
    “you will help us continue to protect the advancement of _______and give policymakers…”
    “Become an AAAS member today because together we are a stronger force for _______.”
    “Educate Congress about the importance of _______ funding”
    “Convene _______ societies in opposition to funding cuts”
    “Rally fellow AAAS members to represent pro-_______ ideals in the media.”
    “Join today and become a force for _______.”
    “For _______, American Association for the Advancement of _______”

    • The appropriate form of idiot:

      “…anti-idiocy actions…”
      “…as idiocy advocates…”
      “…protect the advancement of idiocy…”
      “…importance of idiotic funding…”
      “…idiotic societies…”
      “…represent pro-idiocy ideals…”
      “…force for idiocy…”
      “For idiocy, American Association for the Advancement of Idiots”

    • 1 – … streak of anti-runaway bureaucracy actions…
      2 – … as climate alarm advocates….
      3 – … protect the advancement of the climate industrial complex…
      4 – … we are a stronger force for effective propaganda…
      5 – … importance of my personal funding…
      6 – … convene all teat suckers, trough slurpers and other leftist societies…
      7 – … to represent pro-rent seeking ideals…
      8 – … become a force for scaring the bejeezus out of American school children…
      9 – … For Mother Gaia and my pension, American Association for the Advancement of Shinola (they’ll know what we mean)….

  14. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but scientists’ feelings aren’t supposed to be part of the scientific method.”

    Since the entire CAGW case is based on emotional arguments, rather than logic, is this at all surprising?

    Another emotional response frequently exhibited by alarmists is anger, especially when confronted with undeniable logic that undermines their beliefs. We see a lot of this in the comments made by the IPCC”s lackeys and I’ve also observed this in my interactions with well known scientists who side with the IPCC.

    But then again, politics is emotionally driven (if it was driven by logic, there would be no political divide) and the pollution of climate science by politics is the primary ‘forcing’ that has led to this problem.

  15. Now, I can understand and accept the difference between correction, amendments, and retractions. These are fundamentally different concepts. There is also a major difference between a paper that is now outdated and one that is removed due to a fundamental error or misrepresentation. In the example above, it would require a complete retraction as the nature of the error makes the conclusion fundamentally flawed. Feelings or not, the author still made a critical error that made it all the way to publishing. He SHOULD feel embarassed and stigamtized about that.

    However, we aren’t talking to children. Anyone who is able to read a scientific paper should be able to understand the concept that science can be wrong and, even when right, progresses onwards. This would make censorship of the past just too easy. Label it “Retired” and forget about that pesky contrary data.

  16. I consider this quite serious, as it suggest that no attempt was made to check either the functionality of the programme, or that it had read all the data before publishing. The peer reviewer presumably asked for both the programme and data before approving the article so I would expect that the error was noticed. If the reviewer does not check both programme and data, what is he reviewing, a spelling check? This nonsense over computer generated results is a continuous problem that must be addressed, by providing access to data at all stages of analysis and the programmes used (source code) so that the experimental result is capable of peer checking. Mann could not produce his and we could not analyse and repeat his method. Science really needs to get a grip, before publishing arbitrary rubbish so often that everything is unbelievable.

  17. When at school we were always warned against using slide rules for calculations. It was too easy to get the decimal point in the wrong place. The word was: always check your slide rule computations by doing an approximate calculation using pencil and paper. As Churchill is reputed to have said: “Those dammed dots”.

    But (1) his conclusions may be wrong, if 99% of the data was not used. (Would they have been better if the figure was 97% – just wondering). However, (2) notwithstanding that he may have come to the right conclusions. More likely the conclusion is either dead wrong, or else just a little bit off the mark.

    I would say that the appropriate term to use is “Retraction” with an explanation why the document is retracted. Bonus points for this. Especially if he can say that the paper is being reworked and may be re-submitted in the future if solid conclusions can be drawn using the full set of data.

    A correction hardly seems appropriate in this case – may be so if there were a minor error, but to lose 99% seems more like enemy action!

  18. While better than AAAS, Sigma Xi is also very concerned about their paychecks, but either are not aware or ignoring how this has further hurt their credibility. Some of it sounds good, but they are into the “narrative” narrative, ‘if we just explain it right.’ American Scientist has been publishing some very good contrarian articles, one very recently on “The Biodiversity Conservation Paradox” (by Mark Vellend, March/April) questioning some of the prevailing wisdom about exotic species. However, I suspect that they are making a political judgement to stay out of the direct climate controversy. I am an Emeritus member, so far only a little tempted to resign. An outside unbiased analysis of Sigma Xi would be welcomed, by some at least. Their main office is not in DC, but is close (Triangle Park, NC). This is one example from their Executive Director and CEO. I can’t seem to put it in italics.

    “Sigma Xi Speaks: May 2017
    by John Nemeth | May 17, 2017
    1. Saturday, April 22, 2017, is a day I won’t forget. And I’d venture that, for nearly anyone who joined the March for Science that day—whether they were in Washington, DC, or any of the other 600 cities that held marches—the event was unlike anything they’d seen. City streets overflowed with a combined one million scientists and advocates of science, all there to celebrate the incalculable value and pervasive impact of scientific research. Amazing!
    As I’ve reflected on the March for Science with Sigma Xi colleagues, we’ve come to realize that for us—even as the event galvanized energy worldwide around science outreach—it also served as a potent reminder that our organization must remain steadfast in achieving its mission.
    It’s imperative that we sustain the momentum of the movement propelled by the March for Science. Political winds change over time and ideologies may come and go, but we know that science literacy and research are foundational to a peaceful and thriving U.S. and world economy.
    Moving forward, as we aim to both nurture and protect the health of the research enterprise, Sigma Xi seeks opportunities to expand its public presence as science guardians—on multiple levels and in diverse environments—while continuing to stand firm in the commitment to preserve and attain the highest standards of quality and ethics in scientific research.

    Sigma Xi is committed to advancing science and advancing the benefits of scientific research, and we are a stalwart champion of evidence-based policymaking that supports the common good. We will persevere in our efforts to encourage leaders in Washington and all levels of government to prioritize scientific research funding, science education, and science-based policy. Now, and into the future, your continued support is vital in conserving a functioning science enterprise. As always, we encourage feedback, ideas, and participation. To share your thoughts, contact us at executiveoffice@sigmaxi.org or drop me a line at jnemeth@sigmaxi.org.
    – See more at: https://www.sigmaxi.org/news/keyed-in/post/keyed-in/2017/05/17/sigma-xi-speaks-may-2017#sthash.VWIlsYuK.dpuf”

    • Objecting to Trump’s unsophisticated budget cuts is not objectionable, only protesting against targeted cuts to climate alarmism. Even Pruitt opposes most of Trump’s cuts.

  19. Correct me if I’m wrong, but scientists’ feelings aren’t supposed to be part of the scientific method.

    Publishing science papers is ~10% about the scientific method and ~90% about getting more grant money and furthering scientists careers, so a scientists’s feeling and reputation take precedence.

    • I have contemplated this a long time, as a researcher, finding ‘nothing’ must be a career killer. Obviously that researcher is not skilled enough to do so.
      A PhD acquaintance of mine that did private (paid) research has expressed the pressure to find not only results but positive results. She has seen her manager throw out ‘outliers’ that end up improving the results with no citation for the removal.

      • Actually negative results are as significant as positive, but almost impossible to get published.

      • I recently did an internship in a lab with several post-docs, most/all of whom had papers in various pipelines. Listening to them talk about the peer review process was very interesting. One fellow commented about how one of her reviewers clearly had an attitude about the fact that her paper’s results were negative. Another reviewer provided comments that made it obvious that he had not read the paper carefully. He claimed a passage required clarification, but his questions about it were answered in the preceding paragraph. More evidence that peer review is only as good as the peer(s) doing the reviewing.

        One of my big beefs with the difficulty of getting negative data/results published is that research is almost certainly being repeated, wasting time and resources. Imagine how much more advanced our scientific knowledge could be if people knew not to bother with certain lines of inquiry and directed their attentions elsewhere, or could analyze negative data to better understand why something did not work.

  20. Earth shattering development? Not.

    It is the consuming reader that needs to develop a critical eye towards any peer reviewed research. There are FAR more inane peer reviewed and published works than there are gold standard solid works. And there are far more inane readers who hang their hat on low hanging fruit than there are readers who always lead with a critical eye. The onus is on US! WE need to learn how to discern the difference between low level research and gold standard research.

  21. “as science advocates”………”to do everything we can to fight crippling cuts to these organizations, and to support research that can save our communities and our planet.”

    No where do I remember seeing ‘advocacy’ as part of the scientific method. Nor do I remember seeing “do everything” (do anything?), or ‘fighting’, or (only) supporting research to advocate a particular social cause. Very telling…..right there in writing.

  22. The guy is working in the wrong field. This wouldn’t be a problem in CliSci.

    They would just write a new paper with the full data set, ignoring the contradictions, and present it as an advance, having first secured a much larger grant to help process all the extra data.

  23. The retraction will likely only occur if the error is egregious enough as to alter the conclusions. So given that the error is severe enough such that the conclusions are wrong, how is one supposed to determine if this was an innocent (incompetence) or intentional (fraud) mistake? A lie detector test? A trial? Blind faith that an incompetent/untrustworthy scientist is now telling the truth?

  24. Gosh when I think of “science” I go all gooey inside. Science is pure. Science is good. Science is a shining light on the mountain top. Science cures all ills, fixes all broken things, explains every mystery. And when I meet a “scientist”, well, my knees go weak. Science, science, science. Gosh people who don’t believe in science are so, well, unscientific! What could be worse than not believing in science? Oh how I love science! I think I will get a tattoo of science! Science! Hooray!

  25. To conduct any research or analysis and not discover and correct errors prior to publication of the final report is the result of incompetence. What is worse? Fraud or incompetence? False and misleading results regardless of the cause. You be the judge.

      • I am referring to errors like those discussed here. A wrong calculation of data or a computer algorithm that is not programed correctly. An error in a numeric value in a report because of a typo or mistake in copying results from a correct calculation. Not an error in theory.

  26. Kind of highlights the difference between establishment science and engineering: make a mistake in the former and everybody tries to pretend that it didn’t happen; Make a mistake in the latter and something expensive might break, or someone might get hurt or die.

    • I agree. Having worked both in academic science and the aerospace industry, I sure know in which field one is most careful about quality control, documentation, validation, field testing, maintenance etc etc.

  27. Question: What happens when the new label becomes a stigma? How many renamings do we go through, before we say “enough already”? I’m old enough to remember various labels for black people, officially accepted by the black community, and then rejected…

    * Colored People ==> NAACP ==> National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

    * Negros ==> United Negro College Fund

    * Afro-Americans

    * Persons of Color (and also Women of Color)

    * Blacks

    I’ve probably missed some along the way.

  28. Establishment science has basically become an elitist guild whose raison d’etre is to protect its own.

    • There’s support for that view in Dan Greenberg’s Science, Money, and Politics.

  29. “It’s all about the Benajmins”

    Repeat this mantra 100 times a day.

    “You can’t be too thin or too rich” Various Attributions

    Clearly this is wrong. You can dies from being too thin. But, the following is axiomatically correct:

    You can’t be too cynical or too rich.

  30. Snowflakes come in many different shapes as we all know. See the retraction snowflake in action.

  31. I’ve seen Corrigendum used when a an error is found post publication, I’m not sure if it has been used when the conclusion is shown to be invalid.

  32. I received one of those dopey whine-o-grams from the AAAS too. They make my day and I’m pleased to see these mountebanks reduced to canvassing people by email. If they sent me some actual evidence I’d seriously consider it but assertions and special pleadings are just funny. Not that anyone will read it but my reply was as follows:

    “If you do actually wish to advance science as indicated in your organisation title you may consider making a good start by ending your support for the laughably stupid voodoo pseudoscience cult of carbon dioxide.

    Yours etc.”

  33. David,
    You appear not to realise that science is done by humans. As such it is a political and flawed process
    and the scientists feelings come into this all the time. As such it is not ” mindbogglingly stupid to attempt “to develop new terms for retractions that would make it easier for researchers, universities, and journals to admit errors” but the opposite. Surely anything that makes it easier for scientists to admit mistakes makes for better science. It is the self-correcting nature of science that allows it to progress and this appears to be a sensible attempt at speeding up the self-correction.

    And the second half of your post appears to be also equally misguided. By its name the AAAS is a lobby group that was formed with the express purpose of promoting science. So why are you surprised when they do exactly what they were formed to do?

    • Lewandowsky was major speaker at the integrity event so one can be confident the real agenda was how to help academics lie better.

  34. From the article: “Rally fellow AAAS members to represent pro-science ideals in the media.”

    Are there some AAAS members who are representing anti-science ideals that need to be rallied?

    By “anti-science” they can’t mean skeptics because skeptics are the essential part of science.

  35. Years ago, not believing it could re all happen, I predicted as a joke that climate obsession would decrease the level of intelligence in an inverse relation to the level of climate kookdom. Sadly I was correct.

  36. “Don’t call it an investigation. Call it a matter” (See Thursday’s Comey testimony).

  37. hunter,

    Days ago, you accused me of “being less than honest in [my] argument”, with no evidence or explanation, and said; “Your defense of evolution on religious grounds and by way of false claims is much more like that of the climate true believer than a skeptic”, and again you provided no evidence or explanation for your accusation . . other than; “Evolution is part of God’s plan. Period.”

    To me, nobody special, that seemed like “flaming hypocrisy”, but to you, it was apparently some sort of defense of science. To me, nobody special, there is very little difference between what you did, and what these people are doing . .

    The male lion that kills the offspring of the previous alpha male is not doing anything “wrong”, and the scientist that kills the “offspring” of the previous alpha scientists is not either . . on Evolution. It’s just their nature, on Evolution. So too the mass murderer, on Evolution. It’s just the “hand they were dealt”, by genetics and their environment, on Evolution . . Right?

    And again, I suggest that turning unobserved Evolution into “settled science” was the critical step in the process of turning science into a consensus of the top dogs affair, because it elevated the “expert’s” imaginations to the effective status of an observational method. (Regardless of whether or not Evolution (in the grand origins explanation sense) actually happened).

    Once that ~ Learned opinion/assessment as a proxy for actual observation style “science” was accepted in one realm, the fuse was lit, so to speak, and things like the CAGW, and SJW style special snowflake status for scientists, and so on, became essentially inevitable, I believe. (Again, regardless of whether “neo-Darwinian” Evolution actually happened or not, and regardless of any “addendum” about a now unnecessary God being involved in some sense).

    (No hitting, folks, please ; )

  38. MAN UP. Retraction means withdrawing a paper because something is wrong with it. It is embarrassing, it could have negative repercussions, but if there is something wrong with the paper, RETRACTION IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO. Obfuscating reality just makes it that much harder for everyone else to know the truth. Even if we made up weasel terms to make admitting error “easier”, it would not be long before those terms gained similar connotations. Screwing up is screwing up. If it was a mistake and not deliberate, people will figure it out when they read the little retraction notice.

    Almost all of the proposals mentioned in the article seem like overkill at best. Other terms may be useful in cases where the publication made a mistake (misprints, etc.). I am not convinced that papers which are obsolete should be retracted or removed in any form. The suggestion of using the term “wholesale amendment” to refer to a paper containing MADE-UP DATA is contemptible at best.

    The suggestion I find most troubling is “REMOVAL: Rare case where a paper is entirely removed from the public record because its content presents a serious and substantial risk to society, individuals, or the environment.” Who gets to decide? WHY would this need to happen? This sounds like a way to silence and censor opposing views. Virtue signaling, commie style?

  39. “Science Made Stupid: How to Discomprehend the World Around Us” can be found on Amazon and eBay.

    • Addenda to the above: You can also download a pdf of the book here —

      files.chrispennello.com/tweller/Science%20Made%20Stupid.pdf

  40. I think Mann shut have kept his mouth shut about the details, and simply stated, “After consideration of additional data, I request that this paper be retracted as I no longer stand by my conclusions. A new paper including more data is being prepared for publication.” If anyone asked for details, the correct response would be, “We have more data to include in the analysis,” a perfectly true statement. I see no obligation on his part to describe just how embarrassing the error was.

    Everyone screws up, sometimes in a major or boneheaded way. I know I have. A retraction like this would show: he is interested in the actual science; not wedded to a theory or agenda; does not want to misdirect anyone elses research; and is willing to change his conclusions when the data changes. That to me would be the hallmarks of a good, ethical scientist.

    As I often told my staff, we all screw up at times. The measure of a professional is what we do afterward.

  41. Collected 1,800 views on my WriterBeat papers which were also sent to the ME departments of several prestigious universities (As a BSME & PE felt some kindred connection.) and a long list of pro/con CAGW personalities and organizations.
    NOBODY has responded explaining why my methods, calculations and conclusions in these papers are incorrect.
    SOMEBODY needs to step up and ‘splain my errors ‘cause if I’m correct (Q=UAdT runs the atmospheric heat engine) – that’s a BIGLY problem for RGHE.

    http://writerbeat.com/articles/14306-Greenhouse—We-don-t-need-no-stinkin-greenhouse-Warning-science-ahead-

    http://writerbeat.com/articles/15582-To-be-33C-or-not-to-be-33C

    http://writerbeat.com/articles/16255-Atmospheric-Layers-and-Thermodynamic-Ping-Pong

  42. “Become an AAAS member today because together we are a stronger force for science.”

    It would be better if AAAS was a force for critical thinking. Far too much “science” has become politicized and worthless due to the abandonment of critical thinking.

  43. Sounds like this guy wants a do-over. This isn’t grade three. There’s no crying in science.

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