Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes

Mattis, Kristine
Date Written:  2018-03-16
Publisher:  CounterPunch
Year Published:  2018
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX22160

Mattis provides an analysis of the competing priorities of scientists, funders and the media that together, create a perfect storm of "unscientific science".



You may not recognize names like Amy Cuddy, Kristina Durante, or Brian Wansink but if you listen to NPR, watch TED talks, or read popular online news sites or local and national outlets such as the New York Times, you have probably stumbled across their work. They are among a growing number of academics who have produced one or more exciting, novel, too-amazing-to-be-true research studies that have caught the attention of the media and have been widely disseminated through American culture to the point that we may have internalized their findings as fact. Yet their work has since been debunked, shown to be unscientific and irreproducible. It is all part of what has been dubbed the "replication crisis" in science. Since replication is one of the basic tenets of science, failure to reproduce the results of a study (especially after several attempts) indicates a lack of support for the original findings. How does this happen time and time again, and what does it say about science and the news media?

Scientific research is far from infallible. While the right-wing assault on science stems from an invalid, self-serving, financial core, where money-making trumps all truth or reason, that attack has, in turn, rendered scientific endeavors sacrosanct to much of the left. But neither ideological side speaks honestly or accurately about the complex and nuanced nature of scientific research in practice. While the names mentioned above all perform research in the social ("soft") sciences where the current reproducibility crisis runs amok, blatant errors, misrepresentations, and deceptions occur far too frequently throughout all fields of science that purport to utilize the scientific method, with untold consequences for society.

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