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Archive of posts filed under the Miscellaneous Science category.

“Law professor Alan Dershowitz’s new book claims that political differences have lately been criminalized in the United States. He has it wrong. Instead, the orderly enforcement of the law has, ludicrously, been framed as political.”

This op-ed by Virginia Heffernan is about g=politics, but it reminded me of the politics of science. Heffernan starts with the background: This last year has been a crash course in startlingly brutal abuses of power. For decades, it seems, a caste of self-styled overmen has felt liberated to commit misdeeds with impunity: ethical, sexual, […]

Melanie Mitchell says, “As someone who has worked in A.I. for decades, I’ve witnessed the failure of similar predictions of imminent human-level A.I., and I’m certain these latest forecasts will fall short as well. “

Melanie Mitchell‘s piece, Artificial Intelligence Hits the Barrier of Meaning (NY Times behind limited paywall), is spot-on regarding the hype surrounding the current A.I. boom. It’s soon to come out in book length from FSG, so I suspect I’ll hear about it again in the New Yorker. Like Professor Mitchell, I started my Ph.D. at […]

My two talks in Austria next week, on two of your favorite topics!

Innsbruck, 7 Nov 2018: The study of American politics as a window into understanding uncertainty in science We begin by discussing recent American elections in the context of political polarization, and we consider similarities and differences with European politics. We then discuss statistical challenges in the measurement of public opinion: inference from opinion polls with […]

Facial feedback: “These findings suggest that minute differences in the experimental protocol might lead to theoretically meaningful changes in the outcomes.”

Fritz Strack points us to this article, “When Both the Original Study and Its Failed Replication Are Correct: Feeling Observed Eliminates the Facial-Feedback Effect,” by Tom Noah, Yaacov Schul, and Ruth Mayo, who write: According to the facial-feedback hypothesis, the facial activity associated with particular emotional expressions can influence people’s affective experiences. Recently, a replication […]

Raghuveer Parthasarathy’s big idea for fixing science

Raghuveer Parthasarathy writes: The U.S. National Science Foundation ran an interesting call for proposals recently called the “Idea Machine,” aiming to gather “Big Ideas” to shape the future of research. It was open not just to scientists, but to anyone interested in potentially identifying grand challenges and new directions. He continues: (i) There are non-obvious, […]

What does it mean to talk about a “1 in 600 year drought”?

Patrick Atwater writes: Curious to your thoughts on a bit of a statistical and philosophical quandary. We often make statements like this drought was a 1 in 400 year event but what do we really mean when we say that? In California for example there was an oft repeated line that the recent historic drought was […]

Debate about genetics and school performance

Jag Bhalla points us to this article, “Differences in exam performance between pupils attending selective and non-selective schools mirror the genetic differences between them,” by Emily Smith-Woolley, Jean-Baptiste Pingault, Saskia Selzam, Kaili Rimfeld, Eva Krapohl, Sophie von Stumm, Kathryn Asbury, Philip Dale, Toby Young, Rebecca Allen, Yulia Kovas, and Robert Plomin, along with this response […]

A study fails to replicate, but it continues to get referenced as if it had no problems. Communication channels are blocked.

In 2005, Michael Kosfeld, Markus Heinrichs, Paul Zak, Urs Fischbacher, and Ernst Fehr published a paper, “Oxytocin increases trust in humans.” According to Google, that paper has been cited 3389 times. In 2015, Gideon Nave, Colin Camerer, and Michael McCullough published a paper, “Does Oxytocin Increase Trust in Humans? A Critical Review of Research,” where […]

“The dwarf galaxy NGC1052-DF2”

Paul Pudaite points to this post by Stacy McGaugh entitled, “The dwarf galaxy NGC1052-DF2.” Pudaite writes that it’s an interesting comment on consequences of excluding one outlier. I can’t really follow what’s going on here but I thought I’d share it for the benefit of all the astronomers out there. P.S. Apparently it is common […]

An actual quote from a paper published in a medical journal: “The data, analytic methods, and study materials will not be made available to other researchers for purposes of reproducing the results or replicating the procedure.”

Someone writes: So the NYT yesterday has a story about this study I am directed to it and am immediately concerned about all the things that make this study somewhat dubious. Forking paths in the definition of the independent variable, sample selection in who wore the accelerometers, ignorance of the undoubtedly huge importance of interactions […]

“Six Signs of Scientism”: where I disagree with Haack

I came across this article, “Six Signs of Scientism,” by philosopher Susan Haack from 2009. I think I’m in general agreement with Haack’s views—science has made amazing progress over the centuries but “like all human enterprises, science is ineradicably is fallible and imperfect. At best its progress is ragged, uneven, and unpredictable; moreover, much scientific […]

Cool postdoc position in Arizona on forestry forecasting using tree ring models!

Margaret Evans sends in this cool job ad: Two-Year Post Doctoral Fellowship in Forest Ecological Forecasting, Data Assimilation A post-doctoral fellowship is available in the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research (University of Arizona) to work on an NSF Macrosystems Biology-funded project assimilating together tree-ring and forest inventory data to analyze patterns and drivers of forest productivity […]

A psychology researcher uses Stan, multiverse, and open data exploration to explore human memory

Under the heading, “An example of Stan to the rescue, multiverse analysis, and psychologists trying to do well,” Greg Cox writes: I’m currently a postdoc at Syracuse University studying how human memory works. I wanted to forward a paper of ours [“Information and Processes Underlying Semantic and Episodic Memory Across Tasks, Items, and Individuals,” by […]

Post-publication peer review: who’s qualified?

Gabriel Power writes: I don’t recall that you addressed this point in your posts on post-publication peer review [for example, here and here — ed.]. Who would be allowed to post reviews of a paper? Anyone? Only researchers? Only experts? Science is not a democracy. A study is not valid because a majority of people […]

What to do when your measured outcome doesn’t quite line up with what you’re interested in?

Matthew Poes writes: I’m writing a research memo discussing the importance of precisely aligning the outcome measures to the intervention activities. I’m making the point that an evaluation of the outcomes for a given intervention may net null results for many reasons, one of which could simply be that you are looking in the wrong […]

Mouse Among the Cats

Colleen Flaherty asks: Do you get asked to peer review a lot? I’m guessing you do… This new very short paper says it’s not a crisis, though, since only the people who publish the most are getting asked to review a lot… The authors pose two solutions: either we need to “democratize” the system of […]

Researchers.one: A souped-up Arxiv with pre- and post-publication review

Harry Crane writes: I’m writing to call your attention to a new peer review and publication platform, called RESEARCHERS.ONE, that I have recently launched with Ryan Martin. The platform can be found at https://www.researchers.one. Given past discussions I’ve seen on your website, I think this new platform might interest you and your readers. We’d also […]

“It’s Always Sunny in Correlationville: Stories in Science,” or, Science should not be a game of Botticelli

There often seems to be an attitude among scientists and journal editors that, if a research team has gone to the trouble of ensuring rigor in some part of their study (whether in the design, the data collection, or the analysis, but typically rigor is associated with “p less than .05” and some random assignment […]

Isaac Newton : Alchemy :: Michael Jordan : Golf

Not realizing the domain-specificity of their successes.

Hey—take this psychological science replication quiz!

Rob Wilbin writes: I made this quiz where people try to guess ahead of time which results will replicate and which won’t in order to give then a more nuanced understanding of replication issues in psych. Based on this week’s Nature replication paper. It includes quotes and p-values from the original study if people want […]