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One of the core tenets of scientific study is the notion of questioning everything. The drive to constantly challenge and/or better understand certain ideas and theories has propelled scientific research into what it is today. It's important to keep that in mind, as we live in an age of unprecedented access to published research.
It turns out, a large number of published scientific papers range from problematic and confusing to downright misleading and falsified. A recent study published in Nature found that, over a ten-year period, the number of falsified scientific papers that had to be retracted had grown ten-fold. In a separate study, Stanford researchers examined 250 scientific papers that had to be retracted to see what commonalities they shared. Overall, the researchers found a glut of esoteric scientific terms. As Julia explains here, these complex-sounding words can make a paper sound far more profound than it actually is. At the same time, we are prone to accept statements as facts. At the same time, there is a great deal of pressure within the scientific community to publish often. There's even more incentive to publish papers that are on the rather alarmist or contrarian side of things-those are far more likely to receive widespread attention.
The important thing: question everything! Don't be afraid to consult other sources if you see a paper that looks a bit iffy. Have you ever seen a scientific paper that looks a bit off to you? Let us know in the comments below.
Misconduct Widespread in Retracted Science Papers, Study Finds (New York Times)
"Last year the journal Nature reported an alarming increase in the number of retractions of scientific papers - a tenfold rise in the previous decade, to more than 300 a year across the scientific literature."
Why people fall for bullshit, according to a scientist (Vox)
"Pennycook is the lead author of a new study wonderfully titled "On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit." In it, he and his colleagues asked questions no psychologists have touched on before. Such as: What makes a person a good bullshit detector? Why are some people more susceptible to bullshit than others?"