This post was sparked by an interesting e-mail exchange with Jeremy Fox, over at Dynamic Ecology. We’d both come across the same announcement of a (very likely) case of research fraud, and had some similar reactions to it. We both knew there was a blog post in it! We agreed to post at the same time, but not to share draft posts. My prediction: we agree on some parts, not on others; but Jeremy’s post is better.
Behavioural economics got a bit of a black eye last week with the revelation that a major study by some very prominent authors is, virtually certainly, based on fraudulent data. What’s really astonishing, if you read that post (and you should) is that the fraud was so stunningly obvious with even a rather shallow dive into the data. Just to pick one thing, a treatment effect in the paper seems to have been generated by taking one variable, and adding to it a random number pulled from a uniform distribution bounded by 0 and 50,000. (Seriously, read the post.) This is such an implausible distribution for a real experimental effect that, once it’s been noticed, it’s about the most flagrant red flag you could imagine.
It’s not just this paper, though. Continue reading
Read any good books lately? I have.
CP Snow famously argued, in the 1950s, that science and the arts/humanities were “two cultures”, with a gulf between them that was far too seldom bridged. While there’s been pushback against Snow’s portrayal,* it’s surely true that there’s more separation between the two than there ought to be (just as an example, I’ve commented here on the relative dearth of scientists as characters in novels). After all, if points of contact between science and the arts were commonplace, people (including me) wouldn’t be so fascinated with them when they do occur. Continue reading
People love rules – in writing as in everything else. Lists of rules litter the internet: “Five rules for better paragraphs”, “Seven habits of successful writers”, “Ten top tips for clearer writing”. (Those latter two might be labeled “habits” and “tips”, but they’re really presented as rules: do this and you will be successful; don’t, and you won’t.) I haven’t read “Rules for Writers”, but I’m willing to bet it’s just chock full of rules for writers. Sometimes you can tell a book by its cover.
There’s really just one rule of writing, though, and that is There Are No Hardfast Rules. Continue reading