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No Scientific Method Can Generate Integrity

first_imgThe frequency of articles about misconduct, fraud and reproducibility show that scientists’ integrity cannot be assumed by a “scientific method.”Scientists are only people. They are not immune to the temptations and failings of others. Peer review and the “scientific method” (if there is such a thing) can guard against some misinformation getting out, but no method is immune from character defects. All conclusions from data must pass through fallible human beings. The following reports show that problems of scientific integrity loom large, despite a method that is widely thought to protect against them.Another High-Profile FraudVaccine researcher Dong-Pyou Han doesn’t look happy in the photo in a Nature piece about the latest fraud.Rare is the scientist who goes to prison on research misconduct charges. But on 1 July, Dong-Pyou Han, a former biomedical scientist at Iowa State University in Ames, was sentenced to 57 months for fabricating and falsifying data in HIV vaccine trials. Han has also been fined US$7.2 million and will be subject to three years of supervised release after he leaves prison.His case had a higher profile than most, attracting interest from a powerful US senator. Han’s harsh sentence raises questions about how alleged research fraud is handled in the United States, from decisions about whether to prosecute to the types of punishments imposed by grant-making agencies.Is this proof science can keep its own house clean? Not necessarily. He was caught, yes—but only after years of deceit. “Han said that he began the subterfuge to cover up a sample mix-up that he had made years before.” How many others get away with fraud? Harsh as this sentence seems, some feel it isn’t harsh enough. “This seems like a very light penalty for a doctor who purposely tampered with a research trial and directly caused millions of taxpayer dollars to be wasted on fraudulent studies,” Senator Charles Grassley (R, Iowa) complained. He also said, “I worry that other cases may go unnoticed or unaddressed if there isn’t a public outcry.”The ORI (Office of Research Integrity) appears about as effective at stopping fraud as the U.N. is in stopping terror. They probably wouldn’t have investigated this case at all without Grassley’s insistence, the article says. It ends on a depressing note: “once” when some in the ORI sought to conduct a formal investigation of the impact of penalties for fraud, the Obama Administration shut it down on the grounds that “it cost too much and people were unlikely to respond.”Reproducibility crisis “Experiments should be reproducible,” Finagle’s Rules jest. “They should all fail the same way.” The lack of reproducibility in preclinical trials is no laughing matter, three scientists reported last month in PLoS Biology:Low reproducibility rates within life science research undermine cumulative knowledge production and contribute to both delays and costs of therapeutic drug development. An analysis of past studies indicates that the cumulative (total) prevalence of irreproducible preclinical research exceeds 50%, resulting in approximately US$28,000,000,000 (US$28B)/year spent on preclinical research that is not reproducible—in the United States alone.That’s shocking. One might expect a few percent of reports to have problems, but why are over half irreproducible? Is it from carelessness? Is it fraud? This is affecting patients’ lives and hopes. The watchdogs are not sure of all the causes, but “one fact remains clear: the challenge of increasing reproducibility and addressing the costs associated with the lack of reproducibility in life science research is simply too important and costly to ignore.”The flaw is not limited to the life sciences. Nature wrote about the reproducibility crisis in cosmology. People are getting tired of astronomers “crying wolf” too often about spectacular findings, Jan Conrad writes:The past few years have seen a slew of announcements of major discoveries in particle astrophysics and cosmology. The list includes faster-than-light neutrinos; dark-matter particles producing γ-rays; X-rays scattering off nuclei underground; and even evidence in the cosmic microwave background for gravitational waves caused by the rapid inflation of the early Universe. Most of these turned out to be false alarms; and in my view, that is the probable fate of the rest….I also worry that false discoveries are undermining public trust in science. As cosmic phenomena come and go — not to mention endless speculation about hypothetical concepts such as parallel and holographic universes — why should anyone believe that any scientific result will hold?Conrad does not say that any  “method” can solve this. Instead, “To avoid further weakening of scientific standards and reputations, researchers need to stick to scientific best practice.” How, though, does that advice differ from any other field of human inquiry? “Best practice” is a moral judgment, not a methodological one. Critical examination, alertness to personal biases, rewards and punishments—these best practices are not limited to science. None of them, further, will work without people of integrity.Maybe this is just limited to a few fields, like cosmology and medicine. Nope, says Stuart Buck, a specialist in research integrity from Texas. He writes in Science Magazine, after pointing out famous cases of research fraud, “Nearly every field is affected, from clinical trials and neuroimaging, to economics and computer science.” Even if he’s right that “Most scientists aspire to greater transparency,” the point is that no “scientific method” protects against immorality. And even for the righteous, “if being transparent taps into scarce grant money and requires extra work, it is unlikely that scientists will be able to live up to their own cherished values.” It’s a familiar human foible in all walks of life, not just science.Calls for IntegrityThis headline from Carnegie Mellon sounds noble: “Top Scientists Call for Improved Incentives to Ensure Research Integrity.” Isn’t science supposed to be a “self-correcting process”? The article calls that a “notion”. It is belied by the problems discussed further down.  It may be comforting to know that the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is making this a priority, but one might ask, “Who’s watching the watchers?” If the NAS guards lack integrity, it could become a conspiracy or racket. Will a simplistic “Scientific Method” solve this?“Science is littered with irreproducible results, even from top places, and it’s a widespread problem that looks different in different domains, but there are shared commonalities,” said CMU’s Stephen E. Fienberg (pictured right), the Maurice Faulk University Professor of Statistics and Social Sciences. “As a statistician, I understand how the role of data is critical. But determining how to set a policy to support data access is very complicated — there is not a simple set of rules.”The authors’ advice is littered with moral words: integrity, responsibility, ethics. “Additionally, universities should insist that their faculty and students are educated in research ethics; that their publications do not feature honorary or ghost authors; that public information officers avoid hype in publicizing findings; and suspect research is promptly and thoroughly investigated.” Can you crank any of that out of a scientific method?For those who idolize the Scientific Method as the pure, unadulterated path to Truth, study carefully what these articles are saying. Any truth claim must test itself (hear Nancy Pearcey on this). You can’t use the “scientific method” (if there is such a thing) on the scientific method. A method is assumed, not tested. Someone might counter, “Sure you can. You can test all the truth claims that come out of the scientific method against those that are not produced by the scientific method.” But what if the meta-researcher is a fraud? Then you would need another experiment to test the scientific-method-of-the-scientific-method against the scientific method. This creates an infinite regress of watchers watching the watchers watching the watchers. Nothing works without integrity — whether for the individual researcher or for the scientific community.The scientific method (if there is such a thing) is downstream of character; it is utterly useless without integrity. For integrity, there is no method. There is only obedience to a standard, such as “Thou shalt not bear false witness” and “Thou shalt not covet.” You cannot have science without the Ten Commandments. Science without an eternal guiding principle of ethics degenerates into majority rule, evolving standards, and whatever a given society is willing to tolerate at a given time, or what is imposed on them by people in power (think 1984).So Who watches the watchers? “I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” This is the God who makes science possible. We are all accountable to our Maker.  Want to have a robust science producing reliable results? Guide on the words of the Author of the Ten Commandments.Resource: Listen to Dennis Prager on why the Ninth Commandment is essential for a healthy civilization (including science).(Visited 93 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

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Jon Jones covets Brock Lesnar fight, but plans future at light heavy

first_imgP2.5 B shabu seized in Makati sting, Chinese national nabbed PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games PLAY LIST 02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justice01:19Fire erupts in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City01:07Trump talks impeachment while meeting NCAA athletes02:49World-class track facilities installed at NCC for SEA Games02:11Trump awards medals to Jon Voight, Alison Krauss Trump campaign, GOP groups attack Google’s new ad policy Santos is a talented, dangerous fighter, but Jones would be a heavy favorite once again.“I’m excited about the future of the light heavyweight division,” Jones said. “I’m going to have to take on any comer, and the confidence I had as a 23-year-old facing Shogun Rua has only grown. Nobody said my job was going to be easy, but I’m here to make it look easy.”ones’ victory over Smith was his entire career in microcosm: Jones was clearly superior, yet he nearly gave it all away with a mistake.Late in the fourth round, Jones cracked Smith’s head with a knee that landed while Smith’s palm was on the canvas, technically making it an illegal strike — one that would have been legal in, say, California, but not in Nevada due to the sport’s geographically fractured rules.The fight was stopped while referee Herb Dean reviewed the blow and allowed Smith to recover. Smith could have claimed he couldn’t continue fighting, and he likely would have been handed the UFC light heavyweight title by disqualification.“It was nerve-wracking,” said Jones, whose only career defeat occurred when he was debatably disqualified for a prohibited strike against Matt Hamill in 2009. “I was just hoping that it wouldn’t go down like that. I had flashbacks of the Matt Hamill fight, and I was just thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, please tell me it’s not going down like this.’”The challenger decided to fight on after Dean deducted two points from Jones, and the champion cautiously finished off his win — after apologizing to Smith following the fourth-round bell.“He showed the heart of a lion,” Jones said. “He could have done it the easy way and took that option out, but instead he stayed in there. I owe him a beer.”Smith left the cage without winning a round, yet his confidence was unshaken. He is convinced he can fight his way back to another shot at Jones.“That’s a beatable man,” Smith said. “Jon didn’t do anything I didn’t expect him to.” Sports Related Videospowered by AdSparcRead Next Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. “I figure if you’re going to make the gamble, you might as well go extremely big,” Jones said. “Go big or go home. A Brock Lesnar fight (is) extremely high risk and extremely high reward. I don’t really see myself versus anyone that could bring in the numbers me and Brock could bring in.”Although that superfight is among the biggest events that the UFC could stage in the broader sports landscape, it won’t happen immediately, according to UFC President Dana White.After Jones’ win over Smith, White affirmed his plan to match Lesnar first with heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier whenever Lesnar decides to return to the sport, perhaps later this year.“I think that Brock and Cormier want that fight, so I owe Cormier a lot,” White said. “Cormier wants that fight, and if he wants it, he’s going to get it.”Jones has shown little interest in fighting any other heavyweight, and he repeated that preference after beating Smith. So if Jones stays at light heavyweight, his next fight is likely to be against Thiago Santos (21-6), the musclebound 35-year-old Brazilian currently on a four-fight winning streak after stopping Jan Blachowicz last month in Prague.ADVERTISEMENT Lacson backs proposal to elect president and vice president in tandem Jon Jones, right, fights Anthony Smith in a light heavyweight mixed martial arts title bout at UFC 235, Saturday, March 2, 2019, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)LAS VEGAS — Even Jon Jones realizes any discussion of his long-term future in the UFC is tempered by the fact that Jones hasn’t been able to stay in the cage and out of trouble for any lengthy stretch in the past seven years.But after two dominant wins in nine weeks, Jones (24-1) has settled back into his customary spot atop the light heavyweight division and his sport’s unofficial pound-for-pound standings.ADVERTISEMENT After trouncing another overmatched 205-pound opponent at UFC 235 on Saturday night, the champion looked into his future and insisted he is content to keep cleaning out his division instead of moving up to heavyweight.“All these younger fighters should get their opportunity at a world title,” Jones said after controlling every round against Anthony Smith. “When you’re in my position, who am I to deny people?”FEATURED STORIESSPORTSPrivate companies step in to help SEA Games hostingSPORTSUrgent reply from Philippine ‍football chiefSPORTSPalace wants Cayetano’s PHISGOC Foundation probed over corruption chargesJones would make one big exception, however.If Brock Lesnar wants another crack at mixed martial arts, Jones would bulk up to heavyweight to accommodate the professional wrestling superstar. P2.5 B shabu seized in Makati sting, Chinese national nabbed Hong Kong tunnel reopens, campus siege nears end MOST READ SEA Games hosting troubles anger Duterte Taking flight LATEST STORIES 1 dead, 3 injured in Quezon road crash Private companies step in to help SEA Games hosting View commentslast_img read more

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