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Science Forum

  1. Standard member finnegan
    GENS UNA SUMUS
    14 Sep '16 16:29
    http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/sugar-industry-lobby-paid-scientists-heart-disease-sweet-food-play-down-role-a7243096.html?cmpid=facebook-post

    Direct evidence of the way researchers were paid to distort evidence about health risks of sugar. Calls into question the integrity of scientists and it is perhaps time we stopped shrugging our shoulders and looked for something more effective to remind scientists of their social responsibilities.
  2. 14 Sep '16 17:21 / 6 edits
    Originally posted by finnegan
    ...Calls into question the integrity of scientists...
    No, it doesn't; or at least not for all rational people. There is no evidence that the majority of scientists would generally choose to be part of such corruption. To any rational mind, there being some bad scientists among scientists is no more an indicator that scientists in general are bad than there being some bad laypeople among laypeople is an indicator that laypeople in general are bad. This is because there is no logical contradiction or absurdity in only a minority of people in a group of people being bad.
    Within any group of people I know of in society, you are going to get a few bad apples.
    Certainly I don't think any of the scientists I personally know of would deliberately and knowingly choose to be part of such corruption.
  3. 14 Sep '16 20:59
    The more important point to make is that scientists in general do not have any reason to have more integrity than the general population, but in reality they usually do, because people tend to go into science for idealistic reasons than people who go into business.
    But science over all has integrity more because of the systems in place to double-check it than the integrity of the individual scientists.
    Of course there are problems with the system itself and the reality is that a large proportion of scientific publications are flat out wrong.
    The problems really start when very unscientific reporters get over excited for the sake of selling the story. When it comes to lack of integrity, look no further than the journalism business.
  4. Standard member DeepThought
    Losing the Thread
    14 Sep '16 23:59
    Originally posted by finnegan
    http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/sugar-industry-lobby-paid-scientists-heart-disease-sweet-food-play-down-role-a7243096.html?cmpid=facebook-post

    Direct evidence of the way researchers were paid to distort evidence about health risks of sugar. Calls into question the integrity of scientists and it is perhaps time we s ...[text shortened]... s and looked for something more effective to remind scientists of their social responsibilities.
    Scientists are never struck off or any such thing. There is no Approved Scientist Register like the Medical Register. One might think that someone caught cheating their results would find difficulty getting a new research post, but I don't know that that is reliable. The doctor who faked MMR autism findings was struck off, there was no direct effect on his patients as there would be with a doctor who prescribes unnecessary medicines, so it is not clear to me that there is a good reason not to have a similar system with Scientists. One could give the FRS or some other scientific body regulatory powers to disbar scientists who had committed what is after all fraud from working in affiliated organisations (i.e. Universities). The caveat to this is that one would need to make sure that honest mistakes and botched experiments do not come into this net.
  5. 15 Sep '16 08:28
    Originally posted by DeepThought
    The caveat to this is that one would need to make sure that honest mistakes and botched experiments do not come into this net.
    A major problem such as the sugar industry issue is that funding can affect what is researched without any results being faked. Bias can, and does, occur without fraud.
  6. Standard member sonhouse
    Fast and Curious
    16 Sep '16 16:51
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    A major problem such as the sugar industry issue is that funding can affect what is researched without any results being faked. Bias can, and does, occur without fraud.
    Big sugar biased reports but their was still intent to defraud, they did everything they could to maximize the sale of sugar.

    Somewhat like the frauds committed by big tobacco, hiring scientists specifically to prove there was nothing wrong with smoking tobacco, even though it was known as far back as the 16th century it was bad for your health.
  7. 16 Sep '16 19:33 / 2 edits
    Originally posted by sonhouse
    Big sugar biased reports but their was still intent to defraud, they did everything they could to maximize the sale of sugar.
    But that does not mean that the scientists involved were acting fraudulently. The scientists may have been acting in good faith - it is just that their findings were biased to a particular view point ie they found things wrong with fat (true) but didn't do similar studies for sugar.

    Somewhat like the frauds committed by big tobacco, hiring scientists specifically to prove there was nothing wrong with smoking tobacco, even though it was known as far back as the 16th century it was bad for your health.
    But is that what happened in this case? Did any scientists actually fraudulently find nothing wrong with sugar by falsification or deliberate manipulation? Or was it just bias in what was studied?

    I am not saying that no scientist was fraudulent, only that it is entirely possible to get highly biased results without fraudulent scientists, thus punishing scientists for fraud, though a very good idea, is not the only solution we should seek. We need to look at funding too.

    Funding affects what gets researched. Funding for industrial science can come from industry as it makes sense that what industry wants should be funded. But funding for medical science should not come from industry as the benefit to people will not be the primary focus. This problem pervades the food and drugs industries and related science.

    Similarly some science that benefits humanity (climate science for example) should be funded by governments more than industry.
  8. Standard member sonhouse
    Fast and Curious
    16 Sep '16 22:10
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    But that does not mean that the scientists involved were acting fraudulently. The scientists may have been acting in good faith - it is just that their findings were biased to a particular view point ie they found things wrong with fat (true) but didn't do similar studies for sugar.

    [b]Somewhat like the frauds committed by big tobacco, hiring scientist ...[text shortened]... efits humanity (climate science for example) should be funded by governments more than industry.
    Don't you think a scientist asked to study fat, paid for by big sugar, would not suspect something was up, limiting his research to one subject like that?
  9. 17 Sep '16 07:48
    Originally posted by sonhouse
    Don't you think a scientist asked to study fat, paid for by big sugar, would not suspect something was up, limiting his research to one subject like that?
    He might, he might not. Either way, it doesn't make him a fraud.
    A scientist paid to study climate change by the fossil fuel industry is not necessarily a fraud. Some are, but not all. But if all climate science is funded by the fossil fuel industry, or even a significant proportion of it, we should expect bias in the results.
    Science as it is currently set up, rewards results whether those results are correct or not. It does not reward nearly as much showing that someone else's results are wrong. Thus a lot of wrong stuff gets through. We need to change the reward system to encourage more double-checking. We shouldn't stop, or punish scientists for getting things wrong, as that is part of the process and punishment could lead to stifling research. We should punish fraud as in deliberately manipulating data or other bad practices to obtain a given result. But most of all, we should not rely on a single scientist for any given result. There must be strong motivation to find fault in other scientists work - thus even if there are frauds, their results will not stand.
  10. Standard member sonhouse
    Fast and Curious
    17 Sep '16 11:00
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    He might, he might not. Either way, it doesn't make him a fraud.
    A scientist paid to study climate change by the fossil fuel industry is not necessarily a fraud. Some are, but not all. But if all climate science is funded by the fossil fuel industry, or even a significant proportion of it, we should expect bias in the results.
    Science as it is currently ...[text shortened]... nd fault in other scientists work - thus even if there are frauds, their results will not stand.
    The gist of all that is we need to know who is paying for research projects so we can make the determination of bias. Once we suspect bias we can factor in the results in a more meaningful way for instance by pointing out 'you studied X and it shows Y, but we found X is only part of the system of effects, which also has to include A,B,C and D which results in Y being only a subset of Z'.
  11. 17 Sep '16 11:15
    Originally posted by sonhouse
    The gist of all that is we need to know who is paying for research projects so we can make the determination of bias. Once we suspect bias we can factor in the results in a more meaningful way for instance by pointing out 'you studied X and it shows Y, but we found X is only part of the system of effects, which also has to include A,B,C and D which results in Y being only a subset of Z'.
    I disagree. If you can't tell whether research is correct without looking at the sponsor then your aren't doing it right. We need systems that double check research regardless of who sponsored it. No research results should be assumed to be correct because the sponsor was neutral.
    Bias almost always exists in scientific research. Researchers almost always go into a project with the intention of proving a particular view point. A good researcher changes their views if the data goes against them. Not all researchers do. The secret to good science is having other researchers trying to demonstrate the opposite view point. The reality however is that a vast amount of science never gets double checked. The funding and other reward systems mostly goes towards new findings rather than double-checking old findings.
  12. 17 Sep '16 11:16 / 2 edits
    I recommend watching this:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42QuXLucH3Q
  13. Standard member sonhouse
    Fast and Curious
    20 Sep '16 12:31
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    I recommend watching this:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42QuXLucH3Q
    Very good video! Who is that guy, what are his creds? Did you read the book he touted at the end, the invention of nature?
  14. 20 Sep '16 14:13
    Originally posted by sonhouse
    Very good video! Who is that guy, what are his creds? Did you read the book he touted at the end, the invention of nature?
    Derek Muller. And that is one of the better science channels on YouTube. He has a PhD in physics and his thesis was "Designing Effective Multimedia for Physics Education", so he actually did his research before trying to teach physics.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veritasium
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derek_Muller
  15. Standard member sonhouse
    Fast and Curious
    20 Sep '16 18:05
    Originally posted by twhitehead
    Derek Muller. And that is one of the better science channels on YouTube. He has a PhD in physics and his thesis was "Designing Effective Multimedia for Physics Education", so he actually did his research before trying to teach physics.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veritasium
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derek_Muller
    A person to listen to then. BTW I am working with my son in law, physicist ,Phd in statistical physic (used to be called 'biophysics' for some reason), on my grav lens formula.