If Science Takes A Wrong Turn, Who Rights It?
August 05, 2011
Science is often idealized as a self-correcting system. But how often—and how quickly—is bad science set straight?
The physicist Max Planck once quipped that science advances one funeral at a time.
And by that he meant that old theories die hard, only when their supporters die off. Think for example how many funerals it took for Copernicus’s idea about the Earth orbiting the sun to catch on.
Of course, scientific debates didn’t stop there. New contradictory research surfaces all the time. And then others come out saying no, the original theory was the correct one. And then some studies in the top journals are retracted, as happened just a few weeks ago with a study in Science that claimed to have found the genetic signature of longevity, only to be retracted due to technical errors with a flawed chip.
Science and Nature, the two highest profile journals in all of science, have more retractions than virtually any other journal.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has also a very high number, in fact I think higher than either of them but as per capita, in other words, per paper, I don’t know what the appropriate, you know, Greek or Latin is there, it’s not necessarily higher.
STEEN: Yeah, both Science and Nature publish a lot more papers than most other journals do.