Friday, November 04, 2011

Science news: Please discuss.

This is going to just be a quick piece to try and start a discussion. If you're reading this please take a minute and provide some feedback. Ready? Here we go:

In the last two weeks, two really big things have happened in the realm of research science. Well, okay, that's a ridiculous statement. On any given day, hundreds or thousands of really cool things happen in the realm of research science.

Look, if you think I'm exaggerating, it's because you aren't reading the right journals or magazines or blogs or tweets. But I want to talk, briefly, about two very particular things that might just have a very strong effect on our work.

One of them is really cool.

The other one is horrible.

They can both provide a great learning experience for us all.

A little over a week ago, the entire archive of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society was made freely available to the general public. If you don't know it, the Philosophical Transactions is the original name of what became the Proceedings of the Royal Society, arguably, the first, oldest, and longest running scientific journal.

Wonder why I say "arguably"? Ask a French scientist or, you know, offer me a beer and five minutes of listening.

Anyway, I now have a pdf on my desktop allowing me to read the original "A Letter of Benjamin Franklin, Esq; to Mr. Peter Collinson, F. R. S. concerning an Electrical Kite", from 1751.

Another pdf I had to look for right away is the 1671 article by Sir Isaac Newton "containing his new theory" on the relationship between light and colours.

Cool, eh?

What are you going to look up first?

The other piece of big news that I'd like to propose for discussion is the confession this week of Diederik Stapel, PhD, who admitted that he has been falsifying data for most of his 20 year career as a well-respected social psychologist. He has been heavily published, and has supervised more than a dozen PhDs. Worse than all of that, his work has influenced public, private, academic, corporate and medical opinions and actions... ...and it was all based on falsified data.

To frame a selfish question that we could all be asking right now: In this time of anti-scientific naysaying from high offices, how will Stapel's actions effect our prospects, and how should we respond?

Any thoughts?