Advocacy research, incentives and the practice of science

by Judith Curry

There is a problem with the practice of science. Because of poor scientific practices, and improper incentives, few papers with useful scientific findings are published in leading journals. The problem appears to be growing due to funding for advocacy research.

J. Scott Armstrong and Kesten Green have written an important new paper Guidelines for Science: Evidence and Checklists.  I encourage you to read the whole paper.

Here are some excerpts that I think are particularly important:

Advocacy Research

Funding for researchers is often provided to gain support for a favored hypothesis. Researchers are also rewarded for finding evidence that supports hypotheses favored by senior colleagues. These incentives leads to what we call “advocacy research,” an approach that is contrary to the definition of science. In addition, university researchers are typically rewarded with selection and promotion on the basis of their performance against measures that have the effect of distracting them from doing useful scientific research.

Advocacy research can be the product of a genuine belief that one’s preferred hypothesis must be true, thus blinding the researcher to alternatives. The single-minded pursuit of support for a favored hypothesis has also been referred to as “confirmation bias”. The inability to consider alternatives appears to be a common problem even for scientists. Journal reviewers often act as advocates by recommending the rejection of papers that challenge popular theories. 

Distracting incentives

Researchers in universities are typically subject to incentives that are unrelated to or detrimental to Franklin’s call for useful research. In particular, university administrators reward researchers for obtaining grants and other funding, and for publishing papers in high-status journals.

There is little reason to believe that committees of officials in governments, corporations, or foundations can and do identify projects that would lead to useful scientific findings better than individual researchers can and do. Creativity is an individual activity, and designing research projects is better left to scientists who know how best to design research projects in their own area of expertise.

Obtaining funding is an expensive exercise, and this reduces the money and time researchers have available for doing useful research. Finally, if you do succeed in obtaining funding, you are likely to lose some freedom as we discuss below

The number of papers published in academic journals is a poor measure of useful scientific output. Many papers address trivial problems.

Effects on science

Armstrong and Hubbard (1991) conducted a survey of editors of American Psychological Association (APA) journals that asked: “To the best of your memory, during the last two years of your tenure as editor of an APA journal, did your journal publish one or more papers that were considered to be both controversial and empirical? (That is, papers that presented empirical evidence contradicting the prevailing wisdom.)” Sixteen of the 20 editors replied: Seven editors could recall none, four said there was one, while three said there was at least one. Two editors said that they published several such papers.

Fortunately, it occurs to some researchers and to some research organizations that their proper objective is to produce useful scientific findings. As a result, one can look in almost any area and find useful scientific research. Our concern in this paper is not the absence of important papers, but rather their infrequency. That concern is related to what Holub, Tappeiner, and Eberharter (1991)—referring to the field of economics—called the Iron Law of Important Papers: Rapid increases in government funding has increased the number of papers published but seems to have had little effect on the number of papers with useful scientific findings. 

Operational guidelines for scientists

The authors present comprehensive operational guidelines for scientists.  Here, I select some text that I feel makes particularly important points:

The way a problem is stated limits the search for solutions. To avoid that, state the problem in many different ways prior to searching for solutions, a technique known as “problem storming.”. Then search for solutions for each problem.

Skepticism drives progress in science. Unfortunately, skepticism can also annoy other researchers and thus reduce opportunities for employment, funding, publication, and citations. Researchers in universities go to considerable lengths to ensure a common core of beliefs as is witnessed by the fact that over the past half century, political conservatives have become rare in social science departments at leading U.S. universities  with the consequent loss of that source of skepticism toward fashionable ideas that are at odds with established economic principles.

It does little good to try to be as objective as possible. That is too vague. The solution suggested by Francis Bacon was to consider “any contrary hypotheses that may be imagined.” What information would cause you to conclude that your favored hypothesis was inferior to other hypotheses? If you cannot think of any information that would threaten belief in your preferred hypothesis, work on a different problem.    

Chamberlin (1890) observed that the fields of science that made the most progress were those that tested all reasonable hypotheses. Assess reasonableness generously, as Sir Francis Bacon suggested. The approach fosters objectivity. 


Using the Guidelines for Science

Adam Smith wondered why Scotland’s relatively few academics were responsible for many scientific advances during the Industrial Revolution, while England’s larger number of academics contributed little. He concluded that because the government provided them with generous support, academics in England had little motivation to do useful research. Modern universities around the world tend to be more like those of 18th Century England than they are like those of 18th Century Scotland. Should we expect different results?

Governments are inclined to support advocacy research and to suppress the speech of scientists who challenge that research. 

There is a long history of governments—civil and religious—suppressing the speech of scientists when it was politically inconvenient for them to do so. In modern times, the Soviet government endorsement of Lysenko’s theories led to persecution of agricultural experimenters whose findings did support those theories (Miller, 1996). Currently, some scientists whose findings conflict with the U.S. government’s position on the global warming alarm have been threatened, harassed, fired from government and university positions, subjected to hacking of their websites, and threatened with prosecution under racketeering (RICO) laws (see, e.g., Curry, 2015).

Peer review

According to Burnham (1990), mandatory journal peer review was not common until sometime after World War II. Burnham concluded that mandatory journal peer review has been detrimental to science. The evidence supports Burnham. Consider that reviewers fail to reliably identify errors in papers. For example, Baxt, Waeckerie, Berlin, and Callaham (1998) sent a fictitious paper with 10 major and 13 minor errors to 262 reviewers. Of that number, 199 submitted reviews. On average, the reviewers identified only 23 percent of the errors. They missed some big errors; for example, 68 percent of the reviewers did not realize that the results did not support the conclusions.

In a similar study, Schroter et al. (2008) gave “journal reviewers” papers containing nine major intentional errors. The typical reviewer found only 2.6 (29 percent) of the errors. But most important is the evidence presented in their paper that reviewers seldom assess whether submitted papers present useful scientific findings.

JC reflections

The essay by Armstrong and Green is provocative on numerous fronts.  I have a few overarching comments.

First, I think that their definitions of science, scientific method  and forecasting put forward are somewhat narrow, when the natural/physical sciences are considered (it may be appropriate for the social sciences).  See in particular these previous essays at CE:

I think the issue, and definition, of ‘advocacy science’ is important. It seems that far too much of climate research (including what is funded by the U.S. government) falls into this bucket.

The issue of incentives for researchers is a huge problem, which was discussed most recently at CE in this post:

I like the ‘problem storming’ idea.  I explicitly adopted the ‘multiple working hypotheses’ strategy in my paper Mixing Politics and Science in Testing the Hypothesis That Greenhouse Warming Is Causing a Global Increase in Hurricane Intensity.  Unfortunately, natural variability is treated as insignificant noise in way too many climate science papers.

With regards to the research checklist, I think there are some good ideas and important points there.  However, I find it to be overly constraining and formulaic for natural/physical sciences, particularly with regards to Bohr’s Quadrant.

And finally, specifically with regards to climate science, I think that the coupled advocacy and incentives issues raised here are very important and need to be more widely recognized in policy making, not to mention assessment reports.


98 responses to “Advocacy research, incentives and the practice of science

  1. And then there’s the issue of hypocrisy when, as observed earlier by Judith Curry, “employees of green advocacy groups can participate as authors of the IPCC reports (without apparent criticism), but a non-advocate scientist [like Lennart Bengtsson] cannot participate in a (non-green) think tank without censure from scientist colleagues… Honest brokers are to be preferred over advocates; but the real problem arises when advocates seek to stifle scientific and policy debates.”

  2. Advocacy research: no where is this more widespread than in vaccine safety research. The most prominent claim is that vaccines have nothing to do with autism and research repeats that claim, but if one looks at many vaccine product inserts one sees “encephalopathy” listed as a possible adverse side effect. I’m not arguing that the incidence of encephalopathy from vaccines is greater than or less than from the disease; the question is merely, does it ever happen with vaccines, and the consensus science says no, never, any relation of brain damage to vaccines is a myth. But … the CDC whistleblower claims that the CDC hid data that would show such a link, and we have to ask if data torture isn’t only prevalent in climate science but in medical research as well. At the website we have a clear outline of a biological mechanism for brain injury from vaccines (as well as solid evidence for harm from aluminum adjuvant) extensively supported by published research. If the CDC is responsible for the major published epidemiological studies on vaccine/autism, then it’s reasonable to ask if the CDC scientists involved haven’t been so programed to advocate for safety that they couldn’t see harm if it hit them over the head.

    • Antivaccers like you are just wrong, and endanger public health. The MMR/autism thing was clear misconduct for personal gain. Are there occaisional adverse events. Must be statistcally. Are vaccines causal. Almost certainly not given the massive clinical trials. And, your lack of basic knowledge shows. The CDC does not approve vaccines or track reported adverse events. It is the FDA. A supposed CDC whistleblower woild have no whistle to blow.

      • So, get the shingles shot?

      • No ristvan, the CDC does epidemiological studies on vaccine safety– and a CDC MMR vaccine safety study is exactly the study that the whistleblower, Dr. William Thompson, fingered. He still works for the CDC; the CDC isn’t allowing him to testify in front of Congress. You have to ask what could there possibly be to hide?

        I’m not going to get into Wakefield because that’s a tangled mess; I believe Wakefield was correct. The documentary VAXXED explains the CDC whistleblower case and Wakefield’s position.

        The CDC most certainly tracks adverse events through their Vaccine Safety Datalink, but good luck getting into that even if you’re a physician. They also keep an eye on the VAERS system.

        Regarding endangering public health, you might want to look at the vital statistics of the US, 1940-1960 If this is the same copy that I have then beginning on page 80 you’ll see some graphs on death rates from diseases that go back to 1900. On page 85 you’ll see the graph for measles, the vaccine for which came out in 1963, and you’ll note a huge decline before the vaccine, and you’ll also note there were no spikes in death rates when Disneyland opened in 1955 and mingled something like 20 -50,000 visitors per day from all over the US and the world. The point? Something else has been going on yet vaccines get ALL the credit. So I don’t think pointing out harms of vaccines and getting this out in the open is endangering public health.

      • Curious George

        Wagathon: I did. They warned me it was only 33% effective. Worth the money.

      • I just got the shot last Friday. Can’t say I plugged into the debate beforehand.

      • So, get the shingles shot?

        Don’t get stressed about it.

      • Don132, I just spent hours checking both the CDC and FDA websites. I was correct and your repeated assertion is in error. The CDC does NO vaccine safety reseach. That is the exlusive province of the FDA by law. It does jointly with the FDA maintain the adverse events reporting system, and it does provide information on that system to the public, including but not limited to its various public health and immunization recommendation websites. But any adverse events followup (e.g. additional safety studies or patient visits) is by the FDA. The other CDC vaccine acrivity (by law) is that one of its advisory committees is on immunization policy. Adice is to state and local governments and public health agencies.
        I wrote about Wakefield and the MMR scandal in The Arts of Truth. Wakefield took over $700,000 from the lawyer hoping for a silicone breast implant like payout. Wakefield hoped to make $35 million a year selling an autistic gastroenerology test. Of Wakefield’s 13 cases in his study, the parents of 7 were party to the lawsuit. Rigged and rotten. Wakefield was a gastroenterologist; autism is a cognitive brain problem. The digestive track doesn’t do cognition. Your thinking Wakefield was right shows how silly your belief is.
        Autism first manifests when a child is sufficiently developmentally aware (typically 18-24 months at the earliest). This is also the 12-24 month time frame when many first child vaccinations are recommended, including MMR. Your logical fallacy is that correlation is not causation. In this case, because of the safety concerns Wakeman’s scientific misconduct caused, there were a number of special followup safety studies of the individual components plus the MMR combination–including by FDA. No issues were found in any. Adverse events are about 1/million in over 600 million MMR vaccinations. About 30,000 lives are saved annually.
        Your junk conspiracy antivax ‘science’ is a direct threat to public health. I’ll stand by my comments calling you out.

      • The CDC does vaccine safety research in the form of epidemiological studies, and you might look at six of them here: Note that these are “six specific published epidemiological studies coauthored and sponsored by the CDC.”

        Getting into the Wakefield affair descends into a food fight.

        No one is arguing that correlation is causation. I would make the argument, though, that the immune activation theory of autism ( is sound and accounts for parental reports of vaccine harms and well as for awards paid out to families of children injured by vaccine-induced encephalopathy (from the VCIP program, which exists to compensate victims of vaccine injury. But wait … a program specifically set up for this?)

        The plethora of studies finding no harm from vaccines is exactly the same type of advocacy research as the plethora of studies finding catastrophic global warming.

        If you want to be scientific and rigorous, then attack the arguments set forward by the anonymous author(s) of Attacking Wakefield is a cheap shot because so much of that affair is conjecture and supposition and general mud-slinging.

        So should I call your “denier” stance “junk conspiracy science” even though we agree on the warming issue? Keep it civil: stick to the facts.

      • Correction VICP not VCIP.

      • Geoffrey Sherrington

        Possibly near o/t, but I have to stress in passing that damage to face nerves after shingles can be extremely painful and even crippling when victims can sleep on one side only and can get deformed spine.
        So yes, do get that protection from shingles if you can.

      • Evidence suggests that true numbers of ASD may not even be rising at all, or only at a very small rate. The problem is that the detection rate has increased dramatically since the 1990s, so that people who are diagnosed now would not have been diagnosed then, and the definition of autism has become more inclusive of symptoms across the whole spectrum. Increased education and awareness of medical and psychiatric specialists, parents, and teachers has also led to increased rates of diagnosis. Even just a few years ago, many people now classified as autistic would have given more vague classifications (some were simply labeled retarded), or not categorized at all. Thus the vaccine question posed by anti-vaxers may be false both from a causal perspective and from the perspective that most if not all of the increase in autism rates is not real.

      • Paul Roundy, you cite no research for your suggestion that the increase in autism isn’t real. A paper published in Pediatrics suggests otherwise. Many, including CDC DIrector Frieden, suggest that the increase is due to better diagnosis but I’ve never seen any hard facts to support this, only suggestions. One would think that the CDC Director could do better than make a suggestion and would instead gather hard facts to support a point.

        To the best of my knowledge the criteria for diagnosis have become more, not less, restrictive. See for example the changes in diagnostic criteria from 1980-2000: To say that more diagnosis is due to more recognition seems to ignore that there are strict criteria for diagnosis and that autism isn’t casually diagnosed from an routine office visit.

    • Similarly, there are many questions about whether the influenza vaccine is really as effective as it is made out to be and if recommendations are motivated more by the billions of dollars involved than public safety.

      • That is correct.

      • Wag, varies year to year. Influenza mutates continually in both the H and N envelope proteins. Well established general subtypes are named, like H1N1 or H2N5. The swine flu scare back in 2009 was a new mutant of the H1N1 subtype. Each spring, a global influenza experts group meets and decides which types and mutations seen the past season are likely to predominate the next. They choose 2 or 3, and next years vaccine is produced using those strains. How well that years choice matches what actually emerges determines efficacy. A bad matching year low, maybe 60% or lower, immunity. A good matching year, over 90% immunity. For 2009 H1N1, it emerged in Argentina in their fall, our spring. These was an enormous push to produce a fresh batch of vaccine for NH winter, as what had been produced had an efficacy below 40%. And we got lucky. As the new strain continued mutating, it got less virile. Most deaths were in SH.
        2009 is why there is now an enormous effort underway to develop a single vaccine against all types and mutations. There are two related approaches, both difficult. One is to develop antibodies specific to H and N protein fragments that observationally mutate less or little. Problem is many of these regions are folded internally. Other is to target the protein end that attach to the rest of the envelope, which doesn’t mutate much at all. Problem is those ends are obscured by the envelope.
        Either antibody, if one is found that works,would require a new and much more expensive vaccine manufacturing process. Present flu vaccine is made by injecting fertilzed chicken eggs (about 50 million, each laid in special sterile facilities) with virus that grows and multiplies in the developing chick embryo. The embryos are harvested after about 4 weeks, the viral titer separated and then deactivated (‘killed’) like the old Salk polio vaccine. Antibodies are typically randomly developed in murine models exposed to target peptides. Then they have to be humanized to avoid being destroyed by the immune system. Then they are cultured in live cell solutions (usually CHO cells), and finally harvested for injection. That is why biologic drugs are so expensive, even biosimilars.
        So whether a universal antibody approach can be found and then made cost effective is a big question. Meanwhile, flu vaccine battles every year with influenza mutation, and has better and worse years knowable only in hindsight. Get your flu shot. Cannot hurt, and might help.
        P.S the above is quite personal. The FDA regulatory specialist for my little biotech startup was one of the few Americans who died of the 2009 swine flu pandemic. Contracted while on vacation with family in Mexico. Died of ARD in intensive care, just like the Spanish flu killed in 1918.

        Flu deaths are likely exaggerated.

        An interesting paper on the flu of 1918 that posits that aspirin could have been part of the high flu mortality:

      • On flu, read John Barry’ history book, The Great Influenza. 459 footnotes plus a multipage bibliography of both primary and secondary sources. NYT best seller. Aspirin? That’s nuts. Just nuts. Read your cited paper. Guilt by homeopathic association without any solid supporting actual evidence. A junk science joke. Homeopaths don’t like aspirin. Please try harder to get solid sciency stuff rather than cobble together fringy suspect theories.

        In the Spanish flu of 1918, victims drowned from ARD. Lungs filled with fluid from a violent immune response, they turned blue from lack of oxygen, then died. Overdosing aspirin does not do that. Ever.
        And they most certainly did not die of concommitant bacteria infection. Proof is in the history book. Medics in 1918 thought influenza must be bacterial, because viruses were not yet understood or detectible. So the medical community was searching frantically for an unknown bacterial agent, knowing they could then develop an antidote (like for tetanus, first shown 1890), or a vaccine (like for typhoid, first used 1896). There were no bacteria associated with Spanish Flu deaths. Although amuzingly there was one false alarm, a newly discovered, then proved innocent, so falsely named Haemophilae influenzae.
        Again, your assertions Don are just factually wrong. Medically very wrong. You endanger yourself and others by maintaining your nonscience.

      • If I had referenced a nonscience paper then you could call it nonscience. I don’t know where you get your homeopathic rant from. I’m not sure this paper has anything to do with “liking” or “not liking” aspirin, any more than a paper on measles hinged on “liking” or “not liking” measles.

        From the paper:
        “Pharmacokinetic data, which were unavailable in 1918, indicate that the aspirin regimens recommended for the ‘Spanish influenza’ predispose to severe pulmonary toxicity.”

        “The occurrence of pulmonary edema in humans with salicylate intoxication is well documented [19, 35]. Increased pulmonary vascular bed permeability to fluid and protein, decreases in arterial pO2, and increases in postmortem extravascular lung water followed salicylate administration in sheep [46]. Salicylate also depresses the lung’s mucociliary transport system [47]. ”

        ” …just before the 1918 death spike, aspirin was recommended in regimens now known to be potentially toxic …”

        I’m not saying this is absolutely true — it’s another point of view deserving of some consideration.

      • Selectively citing a fringe paper is precisely my point. You provided the reference. Let all denizens go read it ( not paywalled) and judge for themselves.

      • Observational studies in Canada do not paint a very rosy picture of the flu vaccine’s effectiveness. There was zero effectiveness during the 2014-2015 season. For the 2015-2016 season, the result for the shot was better but certainly not stellar, 45-50%. The flu mist vaccine was apparently not working at all during either season.

      • I find this interesting: “The United States and New Zealand are the only countries in the world that allow direct-to-consumer advertising of pharmaceuticals. Most countries banned the practice in the 1940s.” ~Keith Veronese, “Sick of pharmaceutical ads? Here’s why they won’t go away.”

        Personally, I think of this type of advertising as, bad advertising. I don’t know how much of it may be based on bad science as well…

      • ristvan, what exactly is a “fringe” paper? That sounds suspiciously like an ad hominem argument. Readers are indeed free to read it and judge for themselves, but I think they’ll have a very hard time proving that aspirin in high doses will NOT cause pulmonary edema.

        To refute something you have to provide evidence. Calling names isn’t an adequate response.

        I’ve said what I have to say and no doubt I’ll be accused of all sorts of underhanded and unscientific things. If you think climate change research is a strange beast, vaccine safety research is far stranger. I’d argue that you won’t find a better example of advocacy research anywhere, but if you dig into the details it all falls apart.

        I, and many other anti-vaxers, are for safe vaccines, and we can’t make safe vaccines if we focus on getting more and more vaccines out to the public (sales!) while ignoring serious harms. If there were never serious harms, there would never be a VICP.

    • The original claim was that Thimerosal caused autism.

      Thimerosal has been virtually removed from vaccines and the rate of autism is still increasing. It could be argued that removing Thimerosal increases autism since there is a negative correlation.

      Some observations:

      1. The rate autism does seem to correlate with the rate of vaccination and the rate of funding. It is possible that either vaccination or funding is causing autism.

      2. There is enough evidence for a 4000 kid study with four groups of 1000:
      a. Receives vaccinations.
      b. Receives vaccinations but without active agent (but all the adjuvants and other filler).
      c. Receives no vaccine.
      d. Receives vaccine but no autism funding.

      No idea what the result will be but it should be interesting. So far no one has tested if funding is causing autism.

      • Regarding thimerosal, there are many, many question about this. Here are some facts, though. Thimerosal was in many vaccines in the 1990’s and indeed we saw cases of ASD rise, and children were getting something like 40-100 x the EPA safe reference dose for ethylmercury in each vaccine session, and we know that toxins are more harmful in bolus doses and they’re more harmful in young bodies than they are in adults. The medical community had no idea how much ethylmercury was in vaccines until Congress ordered an assessment of all mercury-containing products; then the FDA realized that doses were way off the charts. Thimerosal was phased out but here is the really interesting part: in 2000, when the Joint Statement came out announcing the phase-out, it said that some children received doses somewhat above limits, but the truth is that nearly ALL children received doses far above the known safe limits. Despite this, the Joint Statement recommended that children NOT be tested for mercury toxicity. Think about that. Then think about why the Ball, 2001, paper in Pediatrics that assessed mercury toxicity averaged doses over six months to determine if safe reference doses were exceeded. What logic was there for this averaging? Wouldn’t it have been more important to notify pediatricians that children received bolus doses, that they should be tested, and in fact to expand the paucity of our knowledge of ethylmercury at the time it would’ve been an excellent policy to see if bolus doses had an effect on children, and if so, what?

        After the VCIP was initiated in the 1980s giving manufacturers and doctors immunity from lawsuits from vaccine harms (but why would this be needed? What harms?) the vaccine schedule increased, and even though thimerosal was phased out it’s still present in multidose flu vaccines in amounts that are still over safe limits. So we took out thimerosal although children still got it from yearly flu shots and then we increased the amount of aluminum and the number of shots. If the immune activation theory of autism is correct, then increasing instances of immune activation (which is exactly what vaccines are designed to do) could by itself account for increased autism.

        What we should be doing is a study of the health of vaccinated versus unvaccinated populations. This has been proposed in Congress but no one wants to take it on.

      • Because your study proposal would be medically unethical. Vaccines save lives. Have ever since Jenner showed cowpox prevented smallpox in 1796. Same ethics will stop a clinical trial short if it proves either effective or dangerous. Effective example Gleevec. Dangerous example HRT in post menopausal women re heart disease. Both well known to epidemiologists. Second example discussed in The Arts of Truth along with MMR/autism, bacon and eggs, and don’t drink and drive.

      • There are plenty of unvaccinated children that could be used for a study of vaccinated versus unvaccinated. Dr. Mayer Eisenstein’s practice was full of unvaccinated patients– and he claims virtually no autism. So the claim that such a study is unethical doesn’t fly.

      • You continue to fail, DON123, on simple internet checks of your stupid references. Google your cited Dr Mayer Eisenstein, cited by you just now. Any denizen will quicky discover that he was fined $35 million for maltreating ‘autistic’ children with Lupron. A testosterone agonist used to treat late stage metastatic prostate cancer, which NEVER occurs in prepuberty children.
        You cite medical malpractice as evidence for your weird beliefs. Nuff said, but I promise, if you keep trying with your science garbage, I will keep hammering back with referenced medical facts from advisor friends at places like Mayo.
        I repeat again, you and yours are a danger to public health, to be eradicated no different than warmunists to economic development.

      • That looks like an ad hominem argument to me, similar to the trashing of Fred Singer’s climate science because he disagreed with secondhand cigarette smoke. My point, you’ll be sure to recognize, wasn’t that Mayer Eisenstein was a paragon of virtue, assuming the charges against him were accurate and justified (a big assumption); my point was that there are plenty of unvaccinated children around, whether we get them from Eisenstein’s clinic or from wherever.

        Instead of going for the easy ad hominen arguments perhaps you’d like to argue for the safety of aluminum and against the arguments presented in Or perhaps you’d like to argue against the proved steps in immune activation as causative for autism, keeping in mind that immune activation is precisely what vaccines are designed to do This last is something many of our reader might find extremely interesting, and especially this accessible essay by Patterson:


        I believe that at least half of autism is due to funding, the school system etc. reap rich rewards for tagging a child as “autistic” (the parents even get a tax credit). The rates of ADHD and autism both have similar trends.

        I’m open to there being another primary cause and feel it is a shame no one has identified it. The vaccine adjuvants and fillers could be tested without ethical issues since they are assumed to be “harmless”.

        Given the difference in herpes rates – I suspect it is a issue with cleanliness in the vaccination areas and simple carelessness by the innoculators.

    • Steven Mosher

      Witness two rhetorical devices used by the anti science types

      “I’m not arguing that the incidence of encephalopathy from vaccines is greater than or less than from the disease; the question is merely, does it ever happen with vaccines, and the consensus science says no, never, any relation of brain damage to vaccines is a myth. ”

      The first is simple. Insinuation and Just asking questions. ‘I’m not arguing, but there is a question…..

      Here is another variant

      “But … the CDC whistleblower claims that the CDC hid data that would show such a link, and we have to ask if data torture isn’t only prevalent in climate science but in medical research as well.”

      Insinuation, and being “forced” ( we HAVE to ask ) to ask if they beat their wife.

      So Don,

      talk to us about Building 7, there are so MANY questions about what happened

      Astute readers.

      Witness how questions get misused to achieve an end that cannot be demonstrated. Sometimes people ask stupid questions. Sometimes they ask honest good faith questions because they want an answer. Many times, however, you see fake skeptics abusing questions. As Don does

      • SM, there are some (perhaps many) climate issues on which we apparently disagree. But here on antivax, I welcome your support. That abject nonscience crap is public health dangerous.

      • Bogus arguments, Steven. There are indeed questions, and the question we’re now addressing is, does advocacy research happen in vaccine safety research? I invite you to counter arguments against aluminum adjuvant– after all, if this is all junk science it should be exceeding easy. Go for it.

      • I assure you I’m not a “fake skeptic.”

      • “About 1 in 68 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) according to estimates from CDC’s,” in 2012, recognizing a steady increase in the prevalence of ASD since 2000 when it was 1 in 150. The CDC isn’t sure how many people have ASD or if the number is rising or if the number differs when compared to children living in different areas of the country and different groups of people. They nevertheless are comfortable with the results of many vaccine studies that, “continue to show that vaccines are not associated with ASD.”

      • Don132,

        If you are not a fake skeptic, perhaps you can cite a single credible piece of data or research, and not cite suspicions, innuendo, or the crap oozing off the pages of

        I love this one…problem solved.

        Autism is caused by immune activation and cytokines during early brain development (prenatal or postnatal). Specifically, the cytokines interleukin-6 (IL-6) and interleukin-17a (IL-17a) are responsible.

        It’s good to know the problem is so well-defined. I expect a cure any day now.

      • Charles, you are free to refute that crap using science. Not sure why you call this “crap”— are you using advocacy logic, which one finds not only in climate debates but also in vaccine safety debates? As for vaccinepapers you’ll notice that all of it is based on published research and you can download ALL of the references directly from the site. The logic for immune activation as a cause of autism/encephalopathy is quite good and every step is backed by solid science, except that we balk and say “that can’t be.” Well, maybe it is. To refute the theory you’d have prove one of the following: autistics don’t have damaged Purkinje cells, Purkinje cells aren’t damaged by IL-6 (IL-17a), IL-6 by itself can’t cause autistic symptoms in animal studies, vaccine reactions NEVER elicit a cytokine surge sufficient to damage young brains, and children’s brains have NEVER been damaged by an immune reaction.

        Wagathon, the CDC has done the bulk of studies on vaccine safety to refute the notion of the autism/vaccine link. If the CDC has performed advocacy research with regard to the CDC whistleblower study, then how can we trust the CDC? In that study the charge is that the CDC deliberately hid data on an autism/vaccine link. The CDC is like the CRU only much worse. This is an subject in itself. The CDC is extremely close to the pharmaceutical industry and I’d argue that they have many incentives to find “no harm,” among them the desire to protect the vaccine program at all costs.

        My advice for those brave enough to look at the anti-vax point of view with an open mind is to start at the arguments against aluminum adjuvant. All of the referenced papers are right there to download free of charge.

      • Charles, I’m hearing insults, I’m hearing ad hominem arguments, and now I see a fairly childish graphic about “re-thinking” that is supposed to prove what? That questioning the safety of vaccines is like questioning the safety of electricity or cars? I have to admit I was expecting some serious reasoning from this site but so far I’m sorely disappointed.

        A better analogy would be this: if the airbags in cars were faulty, shouldn’t we question the manufacturer and demand safety? Or should we instead shout down those who bring up the problem in the first place? If a manufacturing whistleblower had something to say, should we submit to forces that keep him from testifying or should we hear what he has to say?

      • The CDC whistleblower, Dr. William Thompson, has something to say, and what he has to say is that the CDC deliberately destroyed data that showed that the MMR was statistically linked to autism in African-American boys. He would know: he was a co-author of that published, peer-reviewed paper. The movie VAXXED explains this.

        As an added bonus you’ll get to hear Wakefield’s side of the story, from the man himself. At least that should be interesting no matter which side of the debate you’re on.

  3. Good article. Best part is ‘advocacy research’ as a sound bite. Very usefully summarizes a much bigger and more complicated set of issues. Not just in climate, but also things like diet, GMO, economic development, ‘endangered species’ (e.g. Polar bear literature v. Dr. Susan Crockford), and education.

  4. Over-subsidization of science leads to the survival of the not-so-fit, a point made by Bart Kosko in “Fuzzy Future” (1999).

    • More money, more ‘science’, less quality. True in many situations beyond science.

    • For example, we were told by the IPCC that milder winter temperatures will decrease heavy snowstorms… After the winters of 2009-10 and 2010-11, we are told the opposite by advocates of the IPCC position, Climate Change Makes Major Snowstorms More Likely… The non-falsifiable hypotheses can be stated this way, whatever happens is consistent with my hypothesis. In other words, there is no event that would falsify the hypothesis. As such, these assertions cannot be considered science, or in anyway informative, since the hypothesis’ fundamental prediction is anything can happen. ~Dr. John R. Christy

  5. Pingback: Thought-provoking paper on the credibility of research papers | Catallaxy Files

  6. Reblogged this on Quaerere Propter Vērum and commented:
    Thought I would add this to my “search for the truth” blog.

  7. Pingback: Very Important Paper on the credibility of research papers | Catallaxy Files

  8. Willis Eschenbach

    Dr. Judith, thanks for another fascinating article.

    Because I do science on my own dime, I am extremely fortunate to be free of the pressures you describe, either for funding or as a part of some employment. As such, I’m not part of what Eisenhower called the “government-scientific complex”. His warnings about it were extremely prescient.

    Looking at the history of modern science, I have to say that except during wartime, government funding of science has not had many successes. Yes, we got Tang out of the space program, and there have been other valuable findings … but not many.

    The problem with government-funded scientists is the exact same problem with government-funded bureaucrats of any stripe—they have no skin in the game. There is no penalty for failure, nor any particular reward for success. Lonnie Thompson takes government funding for his glacial vacations for decades, refuses to archive the data despite repeated requests, and what happens to him?

    Not one thing. He’s still invited to address conferences, and feted, and quoted in the media. No penalty for wrongdoing.

    And whenever and wherever that is the case, from the typical Department of Motor Vehicles to the government-funded scientist, the usual and understandable human response is apathy.

    And as you point out, Dr. Judith, there is no pressure for important results, only for results … it’s a bad recipe.

    Thanks again for your website, it is an important part of the ongoing scientific dialog.


    • Steven Mosher

      government funding of science.

      1. Arpanet
      2. Windows, WWW and Videoconferencing.. via NLS
      3. Google Maps ( Via MIT)
      4. Siri ( Via Calo)
      5. UNix
      6. GPS
      7. Tor

      And that’s just from DARPA

      Or we start with NASA Langley

      But there is a better way to address your claim. My sense is that no matter what folks point to, you’ll say That’s not science.

      So start

      working backwards through the list and looking at the funding…

      The Tau neutrino is discovered by the DONUT collaboration

      Supernova Cosmology Project and the High-Z Supernova Search Team: discovery of the accelerated expansion of the Universe / Dark Energy.

      1997 – CDF and DØ experiments at Fermilab: Top quark.

      1997 – Roslin Institute: Dolly the sheep was cloned.

      NIST funded
      1995 – Eric Cornell, Carl Wieman and Wolfgang Ketterle attained the first Bose-Einstein Condensate with atomic gases, so called fifth state of matter at an extremely low temperature.

      National Observatory
      1995 – Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz definitively observe the first extrasolar planet around a main sequence star

      Bottom Line.

      if you look at the last 100 years of important scientific discoveries.. the folks
      who made them were funded by

      A) Government– and all the attendent interests and biases associated with that.
      B) Industry -ditto
      C) Universities– ditto

      but you know you actually have to Look at the data

      • Willis Eschenbach

        Thanks, Mosh. I did not say that government funding had not found scientific discoveries. Instead, I reiterated Ike’s warning about the government-scientific complex, and tried to highlight the continuing dangers thereof … but you know, you actually have to look at what I wrote.

        And yes, I do know, that scientists are funded by government, by business, and by universities … what on earth would make you claim otherwise? And there is an increasing amount of science done by people without funding like you and I. What is your point?

        I highlighted the government-scientific complex. If you’d like to describe the business-scientific complex, go for it … but please don’t claim that my not discussing what you’d like discussed somehow invalidates my analysis.

        That dog won’t hunt … as Ike pointed out, there are real problems with the government-scientific complex regardless of how else scientists are funded.


      • Willis Eschenbach

        Mosh, another difficulty with government funding for science is that there is only one government, while there are lots of businesses. This monopoly is part of the problems that Eisenhower was pointing to … it leads to groupthink and support for some perceived or real consensus. Remind you of anything?


      • WE, a minor correction to this most revealing exchange. If Mosher is still at BEST, then I am positive he is at least partly government funded through LLNL. You, Anthony, Judith, and me… not so much. Ironic.

      • Steven Mosher

        W: “Yes, we got Tang out of the space program, and there have been other valuable findings … but not many.”

        Then I list some major discoveries

        W:Thanks, Mosh. I did not say that government funding had not found scientific discoveries. Instead, I reiterated Ike’s warning about the government-scientific complex, and tried to highlight the continuing dangers thereof … but you know, you actually have to look at what I wrote.

        1. I didnt say that you had said they found none. What you said was “tang” and some other valuable findings. It doesnt take a rhetorical genius to see what you were attempting to do by MINIMIZING the role of government to “Tang” and some others.. Note the difference if you had said ” Sure the government played a role in the discovery of the tau neutrino,” see how that doesnt have the same impact as your minimizing
        example. Dont forget there is what you say and what you mean, and what conclusions you hope your readers will jump to if you dog whistle. I wasnt born yesterday.. but I was born on this day.

        Next up, you said this

        ‘The problem with government-funded scientists is the exact same problem with government-funded bureaucrats of any stripe—they have no skin in the game. There is no penalty for failure, nor any particular reward for success. ”

        And then you use Lonnie Thompson as a whipping boy. Well, seems like he got a reward for success. More funding, and invitations, etc
        Penalty for failure? That’s kinda funny. Do you mean failure as in his science was wrong? That would be silly to punish guys for being wrong in science, since all of science is is being less wrong than they last guy.
        But yes he failed to do things that we both Cherish.

        “And as you point out, Dr. Judith, there is no pressure for important results, only for results … it’s a bad recipe”

        I think any push for “important” results is in fact part of the problem. ESPECIALLY when it comes to replication which is seen as unimportant.

        It also asssumes that there are important things to learn and that “someone” has a magical “importance scale” The simple fact is
        Judith and perhaps you think some important things are being neglected

        1. You havent the time or resources or side job at the patent office to fund your fancy.
        2. You cant convince any patron to fund you
        3. No business will fund you
        4. No government will fund you.

        The alternative Hypothesis to consider is this.

        MAYBE the stuff you find unimportant IS important? Always be skeptical
        Maybe its not the evil government, evil businees, evil patrons, maybe, just maybe… ya’ll dont know what is important

        Dont get tripped up by confirmation bias.. read the checklist the paper provides…

      • Well Steve Mosher even a blind old sow finds an acorn now and then. Your whole litany is irrelevant to the point that at last half of modern science papers and results are almost certainly wrong and that self interest has something to do with it.

      • I think the discussion of advocacy research and whether government funding encourages it is getting derailed here. There are interesting points being made but they need to be put back into context of the thread topic.

        Pointing to government initiatives that have led to useful products such as the internet, in and by itself, misses the point of the thread topic dealing with advocacy research. As an aside it can be said that many of these products are spin-offs of other government activities that were not initiated and funded to find these products. DARPA was set-up to allow secure exchange of information during the Cold War. Its development to its current usefulness in communications is owed primarily to non government entities. I am sure before the Soviet Union broke up for financial reasons all the R and D it did on military projects had similar spin-offs for which that government could take credit. In their case, as opposed to ours in the US, it is politically much easier to say: but at what cost. Putting men on the moon in the US case might be considered in the same sense, since the motivation to beat the Soviets there was hardly based on directly furthering science or for that matter any thoughts of efficiently doing science.

        I think the issue here is whether government funding of research has an inherent problem that can lead to advocacy research. That issue becomes clear to me when we consider as, WE did in noting that there is evidence that there are no penalties for bad research or research practices as long the research provides the preferred answers or maybe even no answers. Determining whether the research leads to useful or even valid results is by the very nature of the research something that will probably take a long time to determine and which as a result frees the researcher and research results from any real time evaluations. If it becomes mostly easier to publish or it is even thought it will be easier to publish if your results agree with a consensus then an advocacy effect exists. If in turn the governments and their agencies funding these programs are known to have a favorite policy position that will be affected by research results then it is not unexpected that research may have confirmation biases. Further if research funding can only be obtained from the government and without any competing sources then it would appear that government agencies can better influence the preferred research outcomes.

        We are also stuck here with the almost consensus opinion that certain kinds of research will only be funded by government, since there is no profit motivation for private funding or that profit is on too long a time scale to motivate investment, and therefore we have to put up with the weaknesses that are apparent and inherent in government programs. It is somewhat analogous to putting up with a law enforcement system with bad and rogue cops because that function has been given a monopoly status by local governments. I am personally of the view that private funding for long term research would be available providing the government funding were reduced or eliminated and anti-trust laws changed or eliminated that prevented cooperation of large private entities in doing long term research. A very natural source for independent and long term research would be academic institutions. Unfortunately funding of research by these institutions through the government leads right back to the inherent weaknesses of government funding with regards to advocacy research.
        It should also be noted here that some types of research are more susceptible to advocacy problems. Those with and without this problem can be contrasted by the examples of climate science and high energy physics. Even with high energy physics one can question the timing and priority of the government spending on the expensive brute force analytical tools used to validate theory.

  9. “In modern times, the Soviet government endorsement of Lysenko’s theories led to persecution of agricultural experimenters whose findings did support those theories (Miller, 1996).”

    I often wondered at the end of the Cold War what would happen if the western powers no longer had an other over which to claim moral superiority.

    • I am assuming that there is a typo and the quote should read “didn’t support”

    • Curious George

      In a totalitarian regime the attitude imposed on everybody is Maul Halten und Weiter Dienen (shut up and march on). I read an account of a Soviet county-level bureaucrat who discovered that the officially imposed deadline for sowing wheat was too early for his county – frosts would damage young plants. He took it upon himself to set a sowing time one week later. For years he was chastised in spring for not fulfilling the timeline for sowing. Then he was invariably praised for the best harvests. No one ever attempted to link the two events.

  10. Steven Mosher

    It does little good to try to be as objective as possible. That is too vague. The solution suggested by Francis Bacon was to consider “any contrary hypotheses that may be imagined.” What information would cause you to conclude that your favored hypothesis was inferior to other hypotheses? Laboratory experiments by Koriat, Lichtenstein, and Fischhoff (1980) and Lord, Lepper, and Preston (1984) found this approach helped. If you cannot think of any information that would threaten belief in your preferred hypothesis, work on a different problem. ……….

    And then
    Skepticism about current knowledge drives progress in science.


    really? Simple question really. They have this notion that science

    1) is progressive
    2) that skepticism drives the “progress”

    I see no evidence that they considered alternate hypothesis about

    A) What science is ( they merely accept a traditional definition)
    B) whether or not there is some measureable thing called “progress”
    in science
    C) Whether or not “skepticism” actually “drives” that progress.

    They should have worked on an important problem by their own definition.

    The checklist is pretty pedestrian: “use simple methods” and largely motherhood and apple pie, vague, not ammendable to measurement.

    Of course since they don’t like what the science actually says, and since they cant raise any cogent skeptical arguments against the science, they resort to nostalgia.. science is broken from what it once was.. it needs fixing.. and here is our checklist for fixing it.

    Of course they never once question or SUPPORT the very first claim in their abstract..
    They never once consider different definitions of what science is.. as if Franklin or Bacon were the last word.. In short they violate the very checklist they create.

  11. Dr. Curry, WARNING I am afraid that you may not like what I am about to say:


    After WW II there was an expansion in the size of public universities to meet the increase demand for education by veterans of WW II. With such expansion came a need for “Professors” to teach at these large universities. University departments of science and medicine required a rapid buildup of departments personnel, the student population literally exploded requiring new dormitories, living space for GI’s with families became a necessity, the move to 200+ size classrooms, teaching assistants to manage just grading papers, and then the overarching “leader” who dictated curriculum, the books (their own) that could be used for the class, etc etc etc.

    The conundrum:

    All well and good; but, where would these Professors, these curriculum leaders, these managers of the subset of graduate assistants come from? From the ranks of those already at or could be recruited to these universities. And there is the rub. Formal labels of Instructor, Assistant Professor, Associate Professor and Professor required some means of promoting from the bottom up those who would then populated “departments” at the large universities. Rules were needed for promotion and then tenure.

    The response:

    About a decade after the rapid expansion of public universities and their associated departments, there was an awakening amongst students and some observers that those who populated the departments where homogeneous in color and sex and religion. Rapidly there was a demand for populating these departments with people of color, women, Jews and a diversity of opinions other than what prevailed at that time around 1960.

    What happened next and is happening as we speak, was a rush to “credential” people, ie, get African American and women (Asians and Jews
    were already jamming the department entrance doors) so the rules for promotion and tenure became much more formalized and relied upon to validate decision making.

    The corruption:

    The numbers game for papers, the dollar amounts for grants AND invitations to sit on Government committees was counted. Such committees where research questions would be selected and guided as well as the metrics for success were struck. At the Government committee level was the seat of research power, and it remains such today.

    Unfortunately, the Government committee is influenced and responsive to political pressures. Senior officials chosen by the then current administration are the instruments to inject all sorts of agendas other than science into the process. So many of these agendas, besides social justice agendas, included many “new” investigators, that is, the instructors and assistant professors under the mentorship of more senior university department members, needing grant money and a few papers to survive at one particular university or another. Indeed, the modern day RFP (Request For Proposals) is a targeted effort to mix and match varied agendas via the Government committee to a particular research group or research idea with a very limited number of “qualified” applicants. Can’t have Government funded research being done by “unqualified” researchers. New ideas are not allowed nor will be tolerated. Go fish in someone else’s pond.

    Lastly, this essay gets me to:

    “Benjamin Franklin, the founder of the University of Pennsylvania, called for universities to be involved in the discovery and dissemination of useful knowledge (Franklin, 1743). We propose that useful knowledge is obtained by applying scientific principles to the study of important problems.”

    What constitutes “useful knowledge”? and how do we know it when we see it? Alas, it is usually only long after the research has been completed, utilized, and either incorporated into some newer paradigm, or cast aside that its value can be assessed. Only in retrospect would we know.

    How do we proceed today? More Young Investigator Awards is one place to start. Fund those people whose idea is innovative, maybe even contrary to established norms. The word Young would be replaced by the word “fresh idea”. And, who do we choose to identify if an idea is fresh or not? Use the Delphi method; those who no longer have research labs to support with Government funding; those who have been around long enough to have “seen it all”; importantly those who still maintain their enthusiasm for scientific inquiry; those who are no longer beholden to some senior bureaucrat for the next funding cycle.

    Now there, this wasn’t so bad after all? Or was it?

  12. Science is surely a human activity but I am not sure how to define it. It would seem logical to say that it is what a scientist does but then you need to know who is a scientist and who is not. For example, is a stone age man knocking two stones together in the hope of producing a sharp knife edge a scientist? Or is somebody in the middle ages observing the stars a scientist? Or, closer to us in time, is a scientist the one who is educated in science(s) and is using his education in a full-time job? And what about a patent office clerk who had ideas of how the universe works? In his case, what he wrote attracted the attention of some big shots in Berlin who came in person to meet him and offer him a full-time job as a scientist at the university. A case can be made that they were all scientists. What they had in common was that they applied logic to understanding the world. Some succeeded, some did not because luck is a big factor in life.

    • Arno Arrack,

      Definition is certainly a problem, which is odd considering science requires strict definitions and precision if experimental results are to be reproduced.

      The problem becomes evident when the MSM or others fall back on “Scientists say . . .”, in the same tone as would be used for “And God said . . .”

      Which scientists? Why should we believe any particular scientist? What are the facts? if two scientists disagree, who is right? And so on.

      It is for reasons such as these that I prefer the old fashioned term “Natural philosopher”, who may be a chemist, a physicist, a gifted amateur, or anyone else. The spirit of enquiry, and the ability to innovate, are not restricted to a cadre of self serving, pedestrian, taxpayer funded sycophants of one variety or another.

      Some academics are brilliant. Most are anything but.

      Predicting who might prove to be of the most benefit to mankind is about as difficult as predicting the future generally. In other words, not possible at all, given present knowledge.

      You’re right. Luck’s a fortune. History is littered with examples of people who should have succeeded, but didn’t, and people who shouldn’t have succeeded, but did!

      All good fun.


  13. Apologies to all. Posted in the wrong place before.

    Again –

    Any fool can appoint themselves a “scientist”. It’s obvious that many do. Education doesn’t necessarily lead to scientific advances. Just repetition of accepted wisdom.

    As a matter of interest, a few publishers admit to profits (profits, not turnover) in the tens of billions of dollars per annum.

    I assume that publishing fees are the smallest component of the research funding.

    So is it unreasonable to guess that Government research funding in total is in the hundreds of billions of dollars? Nobody has yet demonstrated that giving people more money increases their intelligence, or even augments their ability to think what hasn’t really been thought before.

    Judging from the number of retractions in prestigious journals, much research is either incompetent, fudged, fraudulent, or purely nonsensical. And theses are only the ones that are so egregiously bad that even the editors, peer reviewers and authors have no choice but to acknowledge their faults.

    Why doesn’t the Government just offer rewards for achievements – completed, and ready to go, if possible?

    It worked in the past – the marine chronometer, the six shooter, and many other things. Wasting Government money during wars is fine. If you lose, you may be worse off! Waste away – you might back a winner!

    From time to time, the winds of change blow ferociously – chaos at work?

    Cultural revolutions, killing fields, persecution of academics of all stamps. If your life is so miserable that you feel you have nothing to lose, the privileged inhabitants of the ivory towers best gird their loins, and bolt.

    “But it won’t happen to me. I’m far too important, knowledgable, well respected, or whatever . . .”

    Yeah. Right.


    • Better yet, require that all research be peer reviewed reviewed and published.

      The government would investigate reclaiming grant money for unpublished studies.

      This would motivate people to do better work. And solve the issue of only “statistically significant” studies being published.

  14. Geoff Sherrington

    When I see a paper from Kesten Green, I take the time to read it with care. Several reasons why. The topic is often one avoided by others. There is common sense exhibited. There is evident thought behind it. Clear expression. Says things I would like to have said myself. Not afraid of non- conformist expression. Hard to argue against the logic. Often novel.

    This is not a cheer squad response. It is a note that authors who want to be read might do well to emulate some of the technique.
    In passing, as noted above, the profit motive is a strong impetus to better quality research. You do not see non- profit structures producing as much impressive research as those motivated by naked $ profit. It is not a dirty incentive. Money was invented partly as a metric to allow such comparisons.

  15. > We relied on well-accepted definitions of science.

    Not really.

    Better luck next time.

    The authors’ notes were nice, though.

    • Willard, what is your definition of science, in your own words?

      • I like instinct.

        Instinct is behavior when you perform something without it having been based upon prior experience.

        How am I doing?

      • There’s no such thing as a well-accepted definition of science, Arch. Not that it matters much. As your favorite Sir Karl keeps on repeating, (empirical) science is not about defining things. Bacon’s conception of science has its shares of problems.

        The article fails their the authors’ favorite definition, BTW. Just take a look at the first proposition: Most research papers published in the management and social sciences and applied economics fields violate established scientific principles. This hasn’t been substantiated in any solid manner.

        While the first two strikes are only symptomatic of crappy work, the third one is bad. Here it is – their idea that science papers should be provocative runs against all the auditing sciences. Either you value creative risk or information robustness. It’s hard to value both at the same time.

        That’s a strikeout, which in my book means this paper should not even pass.

      • information robustness, first…

        creative risk, last.

      • Just an aside Willard, I would also like to point out to science minded folk, do not ‘dump’ your original data to save ‘space’, it is bad form. Especially when it is the first step in a major global endeavor. Of course this is obvious to all at this stage.

  16. Just as a matter of interest –

    “Actually, a broad range of people submit to predatory journals.”

    Not surprising, Neither intelligence nor education necessarily provide protection against gullibility.

    Sad but true.

    The desire to be well regarded oft blinds us to reality. Sometimes.


  17. What I don’t understand — especially given the cursory review of some of the medical research concerning vaccinations — is that the work of John P. A. Ioannidis (“Why Most Published Research Findings Are False”) did not come up in this discussion.

    • Here, Wag:

      Journal reviewers often act as advocates by recommending the rejection of papers that challenge popular theories. Mahoney (1977) asked Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis reviewers to review a contrived paper. One version described findings that supported the accepted hypothesis in the field represented by the journal, while the other paper, with the same methods, reversed the findings. The ten reviewers who rated the paper that supported the common belief gave an average rating of 4.2 on a 6-point scale for quality of methodology, while the 14 who rated the paper that challenged the common belief gave an average rating of 2.4. Reviewers’ recommendations on whether to publish, or not, were mostly consistent with their ratings on the methodology. Abramowitz, Gomes, and Abramowitz (1975), Goodstein and Brazis (1970), Koehler (1993), and Smart (1964) reported similar findings in psychology. Young, Ioannidis, and Al-Ubaydli (2008) describe the same problem of biased reviewing in biomedical research.

      The jump between the 70s to 1993 and 2008 undoes the authors’ “often” weasle word.

      That’s a second strike.

  18. I could not resist a final return to this most educational thread. Spent past day studying up on adjuvants like aluminum compounds, used in some vaccines but not MMR. Read/reread many papers, including all nine rferenced on Don123’s very suspect Hindawi site.
    Conclusion. Antivax belief is just like inverse warmunism. Both are just whack-a-mole science discussions. With climate warmunism, we are dealing with an inverted null hypothesis. (null, CO2 does not cause significant AGW since it didn’t before.) No amount of logic or fact appears to get warmunist believers into scientific reality. (Of course, there are large financial implications.)
    Antivaxxers also have an inverted null hypothesis. Actual Null based on >200 years of experience that vaccines do reduce deadly infectious disease. Again, whack-a-mole against supposed papers claiming the opposite. When those papers come from homeopaths without data, or physicians disciplined by multiple tens of millions in federal penalties, or come from papers cited from an Indian pay for play new journal, you know you are again playing whack-a-mole. Best just stop. Rely on denizens to do their own reference chasing, and form their own conclusions.
    Advocacy research is a useful concept. Here with antivax, we clearly also need to further refine the definition of research.

    • ristvan:
      My comment here will be slightly off-topic (as I refer to the previous post), but not entirely (as you refer also to the CO2-AGW hypothesis). We have an unsettled discussion there.

      You wrote: “I looked at your stuff, and am quite certain it is incorrect.” I replied: “Actually, my ‘staff’ is observations within the published CERES EBAF Ed2.7 and Ed2.8 data tables, and within the latest published energy balance diagrams.”, and asked you to point out which one of my observations were incorrect.

      You said further: “Fail on Bode f equivalent model”.
      I replied: “No. I only say that the temperature loop is missing from the feedback chain.”

      The typical logic is this: adding CO2 —> increased atmospheric LW absorption –> temperature adjustment –> negative water vapor / cloud feedback.

      But the energy flow observations suggest this:

      Add CO2 —> increased atmospheric LW absorption –> direct radiative constraint from the E(SRF, clear) = 2OLR(clear) geometric requirement –> immediate (instantaneous) negative radiative water vapor feedback.

      If you’d be so kind as to have a look, and solve my climate Sudoku, you’d see what I am talking about:

      I write this not because I’d like to continue the usual give-and-take climate wrestling (no I don’t, I am sick-and-tired of that), but because I am interesting in some calm discussion. The best way would be to look at the CERES EBAF Ed2.8 Data Quality Summary tables, or to the accompanied publications by the CERES science team: they are there in my website’s introductory chapters. There is no other way to see what I had observed in the data then to look and try:


    • ristvan, glad you did your research. Now you can refute the arguments against aluminum: it persists in the body, it causes harm in animal experiments at doses comparable to those given to humans, ingested aluminum isn’t toxicologically the same as injected aluminum, aluminum particles are transported to the brain by macrophages, and last but not least, if aluminum adjuvant elicits an immune response (which is exactly what it’s supposed to do) then it’s possible that the inflammation provoked by an adverse response would cause a cytokine surge and IL-6 production sufficient to damage Purkinje cells in the brains of very young children.

      No doubt you’ve noticed that the BioMed Research International concerns ethylmercury, not aluminum or the MMR. I only used it to prove that the CDC does vaccine safety research.

    • Notice that no one is arguing that vaccines don’t reduce diseases; the argument is that vaccines may be causing some diseases, in particular, encephalopathy, and the CDC, the main authority that has studied the vaccine/autism link, has covered this connection up in a manner similar to what the CDC whistleblower has described (by fixing the data.)

      Page 85: About 97% decline in measles deaths before the 1963 vaccine, which wasn’t in widespread use until years later. This is from the Vital Statistics of the US, 1940-1960 (with graphs going back to 1900.)

      “Vaccination, while first used in the 18th century,
      became more widely implemented in the middle part
      of the century. Vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus,
      and pertussis became available during the late 1920s
      but only widely used in routine pediatric practice
      after World War II. Thus vaccination does not account
      for the impressive declines in mortality seen in
      the first half of the century.”

      The above from a fringe homeopathic journal? Hardly. The above is from a summary of vital statistics of the US published in Pediatrics, 2000, page 1315, second full paragraph:

      We all believe that vaccines are of the utmost importance because that’s how one sells vaccines. Vaccines are useful; continually pumping children with ever-more vaccines is not useful, any more than giving children more and more psychiatric drugs is useful.

    • A more correct title might have been:

      “Science is distorted by regressive philosophy”

  19. Yes, what the Progressives call progressive is truly Regressive Socialism leading to anti-human, anti-progress return to tyrannies of the past.

  20. The antivaxxers arguments follow the same line as anti-GMO advocates. ( I went through a similar exchange with an anti-GMO advocate but finally had to quit for lack of openness to truth on their part, which led to circular arguments.) There is no use presenting them with facts, their minds are made up and, like bulldogs, they won’t let it go. It is more like a religion than science. Quote (source unknown): “Never try to teach a pig to sing, you will only get dirty and annoy the pig.”

    • kaykiser, I could say the exact same thing about the pro-vaxers: “There is no use presenting them with facts, their minds are made up and, like bulldogs, they won’t let it go. It is more like a religion than science.” I could say the same about the catastrophic AGW group.

      Maybe it makes sense to look at the other side? If vaccinepapers is just junk science, then all you have to do is take it apart, right? Refute it. Explain how there is absolutely no basis to believe that aluminum adjuvant is harmful. Counter the arguments presented. Easy, right?

  21. Thanks for bringing attention to this paper.

    However, I think there is a common misconception about testing of competing hypothesis in the paper:
    “We reason that without empirical testing against other hypotheses, the usefulness or otherwise of a theory remains unknown and so cannot contribute to scientific knowledge.”

    I thought testing was supposed to be a comparison of prediction and deduced consequences of the idea with observation and measurement, in nature or experiment.

    What if none of the hypothesis survives testing and none are particularly useful?

    Their idea seems to rest on the premise that there is a useful hypothesis which can not be contradicted in the list over hypothesis to be tested.

    That premise is not necessarily true.

  22. David L. Hagen

    “Problem storming”, Invention, TRIZ and Inspiration
    Invention poses similar challenges and solutions:

    The way a problem is stated limits the search for solutions. To avoid that, state the problem in many different ways prior to searching for solutions, a technique known as “problem storming.”. Then search for solutions for each problem.

    TRIZ: the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving.
    TRIZ, the science of creativity, posits similar approach to “problem storming”.

    TRIZ is a problem solving method based on logic and data, not intuition, which accelerates the project team’s ability to solve these problems creatively. TRIZ also provides repeatability, predictability, and reliability due to its structure and algorithmic approach. . . .
    “TRIZ” is the (Russian) acronym for the “Theory of Inventive Problem Solving.” G.S. Altshuller and his colleagues in the former U.S.S.R. developed the method between 1946 and 1985. TRIZ is an international science of creativity that relies on the study of the patterns of problems and solutions, not on the spontaneous and intuitive creativity of individuals or groups.

    Another source of solutions is “inspiration” (by being filled with the Spirit).
    Scientists and inventors can ask and receive the needed insight. Jeremiah 33:3. E.g., see scientific discoveries received by dreams.

  23. USEFUL science: “Benjamin Franklin, the founder of the University of Pennsylvania, called for universities to be involved in the discovery and dissemination of useful knowledge (Franklin, 1743). We propose that useful knowledge is obtained by applying scientific principles to the study of important problems. This paper is concerned with how to advance the scientific study of important problems.” — Armstrong and Green (2016)

    The issue of usefulness was raised in my Is much of current climate research useless? post earlier this year.

  24. “In a massive cleanup, Springer and BioMed Central announced today they are retracting 58 papers for several reasons, including manipulation of the peer-review process and inappropriately allocating authorship.”

    It’s nice to think that practitioners of the climatological arts would never be involved in these sorts of things, eh?


  25. Pingback: Science in Trouble | wryheat

  26. Reblogged this on Climate Collections.