In this extremely informative yet quite disturbing chapter, Harris lets the free flag of facts fly regarding the way biomedical research is now conducted through a method where bad research is put in, and bad results come out referred to as “Garbage in, garbage out” (pg.196). In this chapter, the practically corrupt way that scientists are conducting research is talked about and i’m honestly completely shocked by the fact that so many people that dedicated their lives to years of schooling, are proceeding to waste it conducting “questionable research” that can’t even be reproduced by themselves, much less by other scientists. What’s even more shocking is that these scientists aren’t even ill-willed or meaning to conduct unreliable and un-useful research, but the science world has poisoned them with greed and a stronger desire for fame and money than for accurate, beneficial results, and the corrupt methodology of using numbers to rank people’s intelligence or work value called the “impact factor” is like rotten milk in a garbage bin; it’s what’s causing the real stink in the science world.
Harris talks about how to most scientists, the impact factor of the Journal they’ve published for matters more than the research itself. “It doesn’t even matter what they’re publishing.” (pg 178). In fact, Harris even states that higher quality work could even be found in small scale journals, but it would go completely overlooked if it didn’t have a high impact factor. Because of this, faulty and questionable experiments are being performed in order for scientists to come up with high volume articles they can publish in highly established journals. If scientists who are thirsty for the benefits of being published for someone like “Science’ or “Nature” then good science goes out the door when they are told they’ll have a spot in the Journals if they can reproduce their findings. As Kiermer puts it “Just think of the incentive that creates to produce exactly what you’re looking for.” ( Pg.179) “. It absolutely perplexes me that scientists would want to conduct completely worthless experiments that help no one and waste billions of dollars through altering them based on their own hunches and desire to come up with some kind of results. All of the hustle for grant money and a spot in a journal is completely useless if its faulty research and ends up having to get retracted anyways isn’t it? You’d think that the embarrassment of making a mistake during an experiment, or not coming up with the results you planned for would be far less embarrassing than being in the pool of the “600 annually retracted papers,” but I guess to far too many, a walk in the light of high impact factor fame is too sweet of a treat to miss out on.
With the pungent smell of this garbage method luckily comes a Febreze bottle of hope. Scientists are working together to try to put a stop to the fear of mistake making in the science world and have created a small organization called Rescuing Biomedical Research which hopes to one day, rescue this world of science from it’s systemic flaws because “doing nothing is not an option” and science and research is one of the most beneficial things our world could have, except of course, when it’s garbage.
I enjoyed your continual usage of the garbage metaphor. I think it accurately portrays the information revealed in this book. I also looked into the Rescuing Biomedical Research website, and it seems interesting. They have the right approach to look to many people for ideas. However, overall, there probably isn’t one perfect solution to truly ‘fix’ the biomedical field. Many things need to happen. – Maya B.