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Gentlemachines
What's new at the crossroads of culture, technology and science
Curated by Artur Alves
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Is Social Media Keeping Science Trustworthy?

Is Social Media Keeping Science Trustworthy? | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
Online discussions and post-publication analyses are catching mistakes that sneak past editorial review.
Artur Alves's insight:

Who is afraid of wide-open public visibility for science?

 

"Evaluating research after it’s been published has, of course, always been a crucial element of science. Scientists will challenge published results in letters to journals and arguments at conferences. But those are typically solo efforts by established scientists. Social media and online discussion forums are changing that: they make it easier for junior scientists to participate, let readers compare notes, and, most importantly, provide a public space that is not under the control of journal editors and conference organizers.

 

(...)

 

Peer-review is based on trust, but as the international scientific community grows, scientists won’t spend their careers in the small, trusted networks of known colleagues that earlier generations of researchers were used to. Journals and reviewers need to step up their efforts to check for misconduct, but inevitably, papers with major problems will get through. Crowd-sourced, post-publication review through social media is an effective, publicly open way for science to stay trustworthy"

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Canadian government accused of destroying environmental archives

Canadian government accused of destroying environmental archives | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
Researchers fear that valuable documents will disappear as libraries close and merge.
Artur Alves's insight:

"The closures were mostly completed by last autumn, but hit the headlines last week when pictures of dumpsters full of scientific journals and books began circulating online. Some of facilities that have been closed include the library at the century-old St. Andrews Biological Station in New Brunswick, which had just completed a multi-million-dollar refurbishment a year earlier, and the library at the Freshwater Institute in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The libraries housed hundred of thousands of documents on fisheries and aquatic science, such as historical fish counts and water-quality analyses.

Scientists fear that valuable archival information is being lost, and that the government, which is seen as hostile to environmental science, has little interest in preserving it."

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The Shutdown's Squeeze On Science And Health - NPR (blog)

The Shutdown's Squeeze On Science And Health - NPR (blog) | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
NPR (blog) The Shutdown's Squeeze On Science And Health NPR (blog) In addition to shutdowns of national parks (including Alcatraz Island and Yosemite) and the supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children, the mandatory furloughs...
Artur Alves's insight:

A look at the consequences of the federal government shutdown.

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Noam Chomsky on Where Artificial Intelligence Went Wrong

Noam Chomsky on Where Artificial Intelligence Went Wrong | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it

"An extended conversation with the legendary linguist Noam Chomsky" - language, AI, cognition, evolution, science, philosophy

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Is Stanford Too Close to Silicon Valley?

Is Stanford Too Close to Silicon Valley? | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it

"Stanford University opened its doors in 1891. Jane and Leland Stanford said in their founding grant that the university, rather than becoming an ivory tower, would “qualify its students for personal success, and direct usefulness in life.” From its early days, engineers and scientists attracted government and corporate research funds as well as venture capital for start-ups, first for innovations in radio and broadcast media, then for advances in electronics, microprocessing, medicine, and digital technology."

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How Corporations Corrupt Science at the Public's Expense | UCSUSA

How Corporations Corrupt Science at the Public's Expense | UCSUSA | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
Federal decision makers need access to the best available science in order to craft policies that protect our health, safety, and environment.Unfortunately, censorship of scientists and the manipulation, distortion, and suppression of scientific information have threatened federal science in recent years.

This problem has sparked much debate, but few have identified the key driver of political interference in federal science: the inappropriate influence of companies with a financial stake in the outcome.

A new UCS report, Heads They Win, Tails We Lose, shows how corporations influence the use of science in federal decision making to serve their own interests.
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How We Won the Hominid Wars, and All the Others Died Out | Human Evolution | DISCOVER Magazine

How We Won the Hominid Wars, and All the Others Died Out | Human Evolution | DISCOVER Magazine | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
The unique adaptability of Homo sapiens is what allowed us to survive when so many other species died out, paleoanthropologist Rick Potts contends. .

Via Modern Atheism
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Was Einstein wrong - or was the cable loose?

Was Einstein wrong - or was the cable loose? | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
Physicists at the CERN research institute near Geneva appeared to contradict Albert Einstein's 1905 Special Theory of Relativity last year when they reported that sub-atomic particles called neutrinos could travel fractions of a second faster than light.

 

Earlier on Wednesday, ScienceInsider, a website run by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, reported that the surprising result was down to a loose fibre optic cable linking a Global Positioning System satellite receiver to a computer.
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Galileo's Credo | The Nation

"The specter of Galileo haunts conversations about science and religion to the present day. Two new biographies differ over the astronomer’s view of the relationship between science and faith."

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How the ‘Matthew Effect’ helps some scientific papers gain popularity - MIT News Office

How the ‘Matthew Effect’ helps some scientific papers gain popularity - MIT News Office | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
Fine-grained research shows boost for leading-edge and low-profile work in the life sciences happens after authors are honored.
Artur Alves's insight:

«The study reports that citations of papers increase by 12 percent, above the expected level, when their authors are awarded prestigious investigator status at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), a major private research organization. However, certain kinds of research papers are boosted more than others by the increased prestige that accompanies the HHMI award, Azoulay notes.

“We find much more of an effect on recent papers, published in a short window before the prize,” Azoulay says. Moreover, he adds, the greatest gains come for papers in new areas of research, and for papers published in lower-profile journals. Younger researchers who had lower profiles previously were more likely to see a change as well. 

“The effect was much more pronounced when there was more reason to be uncertain about the quality of the science or the scientist before the prize,” Azoulay observes.«

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Science is becoming a cult of hi-tech instruments – Philip Ball – Aeon

Science is becoming a cult of hi-tech instruments – Philip Ball – Aeon | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
Giant instruments are giving us a sea of data. Can science find its way without any big ideas at the helm?
Artur Alves's insight:

"The faddish notion that science will soon be a matter of mining Big Data for correlations, driven in part by the belief that data is worth collecting simply because you have the instruments to do so, has been rightly dismissed as ludicrous. It fails on technical grounds alone: data sets of any complexity will always contain spurious correlations between one variable and another. But it also fails to acknowledge that science is driven by ideas, not numbers or measurements — and ideas only arise by people thinking about causative mechanisms and using them to frame good questions. The instruments should then reflect the hypotheses, collecting precisely the data that will test them."

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Many Neuroscience Studies May Be Based on Bad Statistics | Wired Science | Wired.com

Many Neuroscience Studies May Be Based on Bad Statistics | Wired Science | Wired.com | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
The fields of psychology and cognitive neuroscience have had some rough sledding in recent years.
Artur Alves's insight:

"Statistical power is essentially the probability that a study will detect an effect of a given size if the effect is really there. It depends on two things: the sample size (the number of people in a study, for example) and the effect size (such as a difference in brain volume between healthy people and Alzheimer’s patients). The more people in the study and the bigger the size of the effect, the higher the statistical power.

Low statistical power is bad news. Underpowered studies are more likely to miss genuine effects, and as a group they’re more likely to include a higher proportion of false positives — that is, effects that reach statistical significance even though they are not real.

Many researchers consider a statistical power of 80 percent to be a desirable goal in designing a study. At that level, if an effect of a particular size were genuine, the study would detect it 80 percent of the time.

But roughly half of the neuroscience studies Munafò and colleagues included in their analysis had a statistical power below 20 percent. Those studies would fail to detect a genuine effect at least 80 percent of the time.

(...)

"He believes neuroscientists can take a cue from researchers in genetics and other fields who’ve combatted problems with underpowered studies by creating ways for scientists to pool their data. The OpenfMRI project led by Poldrack is one example of an effort to do this in neuroscience.

Giving scientists an incentive and making it easier to replicate each other’s findings — generally considered a distinctly unglamorous pursuit — is another approach to increasing the collective statistical power of a body of research, Munafò and colleagues suggest. Two efforts to do this in psychology, the Open Science Framework and the related Reproducibility Project, were launched recently by Munafò’s co-author Brian Nosek of the University of Virginia."

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Research fraud exploded over the last decade

Research fraud exploded over the last decade | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it

"A number of studies have spotted a worrisome trend: although the number of scientific journals and articles published is increasing each year, the rate of papers being retracted as invalid is increasing even faster. Some of these are being retracted due to obvious ethical lapses—fraudulent data or plagiarism—but some past studies have suggested errors and technical problems were the cause of the majority of problems. (...) The authors find that, since 1975, the rate of retracted articles as a percent of total publications has increased nearly tenfold. Duplicate publications and plagiarism, which didn't use to be a significant problem, have boomed since 2005. And while retractions due to errors have increased, those due to fraud have increased much faster"

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The Higgs Boson Explained

The Higgs Boson Explained by PHD Comics

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A stunning image of four galaxies smashed together in one tiny corner of the universe

A stunning image of four galaxies smashed together in one tiny corner of the universe | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
When you see multiple galaxies right on top of each other, like in this image, it's usually an optical illusion, and the galaxies are actually millions of light-years apart.
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Priceless Science: Striking Finds From a Rare-Book Fair

Priceless Science: Striking Finds From a Rare-Book Fair | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
"In a building stretching one square block sat some of the rarest texts, maps and manuscripts in the world, precariously flammable, and indubitably expensive.Particularly fetching among these cultural treasures were the scientific tomes — works of biology, astronomy, chemistry and the like — which dealers proudly displayed with the most enticing illustration forward. It’s the intellectual equivalent of the models on the car lot with their hoods popped open, only with more flammability and much more intellect. From Audubon’s The Birds of America, a first edition of which sold last month at auction for $7.9 million, to Copernicus’ heliocentric sketch that changed the world, we’ve selected the most remarkable works the fair had to offer."
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Cormac McCarthy's parallel career revealed – as a scientific copy editor!

Cormac McCarthy's parallel career revealed – as a scientific copy editor! | Gentlemachines | Scoop.it
"I'm here because I like science, and this is a fun place to spend time," McCarthy said. "I'm not here because I'm a novelist. I just managed to sneak in. I haven't read a novel in years." The author does, however, believe there are links between great science and great writing. "Both involve curiosity, taking risks, thinking in an adventurous manner, and being willing to say something 9/10ths of people will say is wrong," he said.
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