Scientific Method

The Scientific Method
Begins with a problem noticed in the world.
Search for the best explanation to the problem.
Criteria of Adequacy
The best hypothesis has …
a)- Testability: can be shown to be false.
Predicts something more than what is predicted by the background theory alone.
b)- Fruitfulness: makes the most successful novel predictions.
Successfully predicts new phenomena and thus opens up new lines of research.
c)- Scope: explains and predicts the most diverse phenomena.
Increases the amount of diverse phenomena explained and predicted by it.
d)- Simplicity: makes the fewest assumptions (Occam’s Razor).
Systematises and unifies our knowledge
e)- Conservatism: conflicts with fewest well established beliefs.
The more it is consistent with background knowledge the more plausible it is.

“if someone believes a theory that clearly fails to meet the Criteria of Adequacy.”
– How to Think about Weird Things – Schick & Vaughn 7th Ed. 2013


Here you will find various articles discussing the importance of CORRECTLY practicing the scientific method in today’s world.


The moral imperative for Bioethics

(1 Aug 2015) Biomedical research, then, promises vast increases in life, health, and flourishing. Just imagine how much happier you would be if a prematurely deceased loved one were alive, or a debilitated one were vigorous — and multiply that good by several billion, in perpetuity. Given this potential bonanza, the primary moral goal for today’s bioethics can be summarized in a single sentence. Get out of the way.

… the cost of disease is felt by every living human. The Global Burden of Disease Project has tried to quantify it by estimating the number of years lost to premature death or compromised by disability. In 2010 it was 2.5 billion, which means that about a third of potential human life and flourishing goes to waste. The toll from crime, wars, and genocides does not come anywhere close.
Bioethics slows down or stops enormous benefits to humans due to fear of unknown effects
Bioethics accused of doing more harm than good
(Nicholls et al. 2015) … reviewed nearly 200 studies that tried to gauge the effectiveness of ethics overviews. They found that most of these assessments focused only on the administrative aspects of ethics regulations rather than on how much such rules prevented study participants from being harmed … (Nature -5 Aug 2015) bioethics does tend to take an overly cautious approach to new technologies. Imposing a moratorium that broadly restricts the use of emerging technologies.


A Crisis of Trust

(27 July 2014) The incentives to fabricate data are strong: it is so much easier to publish quickly and to obtain high-profile results if you cheat. … the organizations supposed to police science have failed. Most researchers ‘convicted’ of fraud seem able to carry on as if nothing much had happened.
Post Publication Peer Review
Yet the internet and advances in information technology mean that it is no longer necessary to trust; one can also verify. All methods, data, materials, and analysis can and should be made available to the public without precondition.  Open data is therefore a policy of prevention being better than cure. PLoS is leading the way: following a recent policy change, everything must be easily accessible as a precondition of publication. A less dramatic but necessary and complementary step would be for journals and referees to insist on complete descriptions of methods and results. In this way, platforms like PubPeer can help ensure that cheating, once discovered, has lasting consequences, tilting the balance of benefits towards honest, high-quality research.

We are therefore hopeful for the future. The growing use of post-publication peer review, the movement towards full data access and, hopefully, some improvement in the policies of research organizations and publishers, should usher in a new era of quality in science. Scientists can make use of services like PubPeer and leverage the high pressure under which we all work to insist upon high standards and to unmask cheats. Together, let’s retake control of our profession.


The Closing of the Scientific Mind

(1 Jan 2014) Science is caught up, also, in the same educational breakdown that has brought so many other proud fields low. Science needs reasoned argument and constant skepticism and open-mindedness. But our leading universities have dedicated themselves to stamping them out—at least in all political areas. We routinely provide superb technical educations in science, mathematics, and technology to brilliant undergraduates and doctoral students.


But if those same students have been taught since kindergarten that you are not permitted to question the doctrine of man-made global warming, or the line that men and women are interchangeable, or the multiculturalist idea that all cultures and nations are equally good (except for Western nations and cultures, which are worse), how will they ever become reasonable, skeptical scientists? They’ve been reared on the idea that questioning official doctrine is wrong, gauche, just unacceptable in polite society.


Making Science Public

(23 July 2013) Some might still sense no problem with such an expertisation of politics, and may even prefer it to what appears to be the arbitrary landscape of politics and ideology. But what the squabble over the Sunday Politics interview reveals is that political debates descend to science; they are often not improved by science and evidence as much as they are degraded by undue expectations of them. Being an advocate of science seems to mean nothing more than shouting as loudly as possible ‘what science says…’, second hand.
Scientism and Politicised Science
And those who shout most loudly about science turn out to be advancing an idea of science which, rather than emphasising the scientific method, puts much more store — let’s call it ‘faith’ — in scientific institutions. Hence, the emphasis on the weight, number and height of scientific evidence articles, and expertise, rather than on the process of testing competing theories.


Certainly Not!

(17 July 2013) Good science requires cultivating doubt and finding pleasure in mystery. Negative Capability is just as important to the scientist, who should always find him- or herself in a state of “uncertainty without irritability.” Scientists do reach after fact and reason, but it is often when they are most uncertain that the reaching is the most imaginative, unhindered by a common-sense certainty of how something should work. Being a scientist requires having faith in uncertainty, finding pleasure in mystery, and learning to cultivate doubt. There is no surer way to screw up an experiment than to be certain of its outcome.
Firestein - Science is exploring ignorance 2
Sometimes the most difficult task in science is convincing too confident researchers that they don’t know something they are sure of. Stephen Hawking has called the “greatest enemy of knowledge” not ignorance, but “the illusion of knowledge.” This may seem disconcerting. What can we depend on? Facts change, authority is unreliable, viewpoints are modified, consensus dissipates.


Science is the Shortcut

(15 Feb 2013) As the ESLD paper shows, ironically enough, sometimes work that is badly off base gets into the literature and even scientific assessments are far from perfect. Nonetheless, science is the best route we have to gaining an understanding of the world that we live in. I’m sorry to say that there are no shortcuts. Or perhaps put another way, science is the shortcut.

(23 Jan 2013) Science should be objective and based on the best information available. Too often, however, scientific information presented to the public and decision-makers is infused with hidden policy preferences. Such science is termed normative, and it is a corruption of the practice of good science … Using normative science in policy deliberations is stealth advocacy. I use “stealth” because the average person reading or listening to such scientific statements is likely to be unaware of the underlying advocacy. Normative science is a corruption of science and should not be tolerated in the scientific community — without exception.


How Might Intellectual Humility Lead to Scientific Insight?

(28 Dec 2012) Paradigmatically, all scientific results must be reproducible, and the system of checks and balances constitutive of good scientific practice frequently corrects earlier results. Articles must be refereed, data assessed for accuracy, and experimental results reproduced.  So it is integral to science, as a self-correcting discipline, to receive criticism, and to be prepared to admit that some particular theory or practice is incomplete or incorrect. Suitably humble scientists are alive to the possibility that their expectations about how nature should behave may be wrong: Nature has shown over and over again that the kinds of truth which underlie nature transcend the most powerful minds.
Jane Goodall humbly and against the scientific consensus observing chimpanzees in Tanzania 1987
(26 Dec 2012) The value of science is not judged by whether or not the scientists are arrogant or humble; however arrogance and defensive behavior can blind a scientist to the idea that they might be wrong and lead to unjustified dismissal of skeptical arguments.  When arrogance is institutionalized (e.g. the IPCC and AAAS have been criticized in this way), then the self correcting methods of science are put at risk. The scientists, universities, funding agencies, and professional societies seem to have a social contract whereby scientists with ‘flash’ are unduly rewarded.


Climate Science: Opinions, Baloney And Bloggers

(12 Dec 2012) Our world is based upon science. It is a shame, though perhaps inevitable, that more people do not truly appreciate it. The clothes you wear, the mobile phone you use, the food you eat and the vaccination that protects your child are all wonders of science, based on so many generations of scientists carrying out experiments and measurements, formulating hypotheses and theories, using logic and mathematical models.
I think therefore I blog
The fact is that the internet is changing science and the debate about climate science is a good example of it. You can be a professor of anything these days but there will be someone out there in cyberspace who is smarter, better at statistics and computing, and has more time to focus on key problems. Someone who will ask for the raw data and mercilessly pick away at it, pointing out mistakes that before would have gone unnoticed. This might be uncomfortable for some, but it is undoubtedly good for science that cares nothing for personal feelings. The baloney detection kit is in ten thousand parts and is on the internet. Science needs to find a way to encompass this new reality.

Because of the Internet and the demand for free access to scientific data (that is after all paid for by the taxpayer) science is becoming more open. It is the bloggers who are science’s new auditors. Many do not like it and have a cultural difficulty in accepting that the times are a changing. But as the new generations take over science will become more participatory and more appreciated.


Responsible Advocacy by Scientists
(19 Oct 2012) The report highlights the importance of trust – among researchers and between researchers and the public. Researchers are accountable to other researchers, to the broader society, and to nature. If challenged, they cannot appeal to authority but must demonstrate that their results or statements are reliable. Trust is secured through respecting seven core values:

In research, being honest implies doing research and communicating about research results and their possible applications fully and without deception, whether of others or oneself:
• Honesty• Fairness• Objectivity• Reliability• Skepticism• Accountability • Openness
… scientists need to develop skills in integrating science with economic, social and political considerations, and appreciate that in doing so, they have choices in how to engage policy and politics.  The route to responsible research practices in policy relevant science is through enlightened engagement, not artificial distance.


Open your minds and share your results

(28 June 2012) ” Open enquiry has been at the heart of science since the first scientific journals were printed in the seventeenth century. Publication of scientific theories — and the supporting experimental and observational datapermits others to identify errors, to reject or refine theories and to reuse data. Science’s capacity for self-correction comes from this openness to scrutiny and challenge.”
A recent study of the 50 highest-impact journals in biomedicine showed that only 22 required specific raw data to be made available as a condition of publication. Only 40% of papers fully adhered to the policy and only 9% had deposited the full raw data online” “There have been a number of reports over the years, urging improved data archiving, and yet the problems persist the funding agencies need to pay some attention to their obligations to ensure data archiving. While they enjoy being cheerleaders for the scientists that they are funding … they cannot become so close to the science industry that they abnegate their regulatory responsibilities.


Bias in Science

It is likely to be prevalent in any field that seeks to predict the behaviour of complex systems — economics, ecology, environmental science, epidemiology and so on.”

(9 May 2012) Nothing will corrode public trust more than a creeping awareness that scientists are unable to live up to the standards that they have set for themselves. Useful steps to deal with this threat may range from reducing the hype from universities and journals about specific projects, to strengthening collaborations between those involved in fundamental research and those who will put the results to use in the real world. There are no easy solutions. The first step is to face up to the problem — before the cracks undermine the very foundations of science.

Who has Authority in Political Debates Involving Science?

(2 April 2012) …‘We must’, ‘we should’, ‘an imperative to act’, ‘we can no longer afford waiting’ … these expressions are unlikely to be effective. The audience may think that the scientist using these terms have a political agenda. This perception undermines the scientific credibility … for many scientists active in political exhortation the key issue is not “policy” in the sense of “what we should do” but rather “authority” as in “who should determine political outcomes”.The appeal to the political authority of science is a common one.”
(29 March 2012) What also seems clear is that continued efforts to use science as a “wedge issue” (by scientists, advocates and politicians alike) will not further the restoration of trust in scientific institutions among conservatives, and likely will have the opposite effect. And without trust from across the political spectrum, science will continue to be politicized as politics by other means, diminishing its ability to serve as an important input to policy debates.

“… the key role of politicians is to choose, not to blindly follow someone else’s view. Who would need politicians if science would automatically lead to policies? It doesn’t. Therefore, imperatives can easily be laid aside, and are likely ineffective. They disempower politicians, instead of adressing them in their key role and responsibility: chosing and negotiating options.”

What if They are Wrong?

(17 Feb 2012) “Scientific revolutions are difficult and traumatic enough without the added inertia of government sponsorship. To put it more bluntly, scientists have difficulty enough admitting that they have egg on their faces.”
The main issue I am raising is not that the scientists who are at the front line of this research are blind or bellicose – not that they are unscrupulous or fraudulent. Most of the scientists working in the field are not trying to push an ideological position but are genuinely trying to get at the truth. If they can be accused of any moral failing, it is simply the tendencey to go with the flow when it comes to writing grant proposals …”


Bad Science – The Psychology Behind Bad Research

(7 Feb 2012) “Scientists are some of our most trusted members of society. We depend on them for a great deal of what we know about the world. Unfortunately, recent looks into the world of scientific research and reporting has discovered that many scientists are not as trustworthy as we would like to believe. By engaging in various kinds of scientific misconduct, such as falsifying or fabricating data, scientists are getting the results they want without the honesty and integrity that we expect of the scientific institution. Some fields are worse than others as well, with clinical psychology being a notoriously troublesome area. How do we fix it? Read the infographic above to find out.”


Social Scientist Sees Bias Within [UPDATE (11 Dec 2011) – video here]

“Thinking is for doing, as William James said, and there is mounting evidence that human reasoning was designed in large part to do social stuff. When we need to justify our actions, our views, or our teams, we are brilliant at finding evidence and weaving it into arguments. But when it comes to seeking out evidence on the other side, few of us can get past the confirmation bias. Science is a supremely successful institution because it institutionalizes the cure for confirmation bias: other scientists. We have difficulty finding flaws in our own theories, but we can rest assured that our colleagues will help us out … we should be open-minded, be respectful of others, and understand that disagreements can be had between people with good intentions. ”

Secrecy in science – an argument for open access


(29 Nov 2011) The fuss over climategate showed that the world is increasingly unwilling to accept the message that “we are scientists; trust us”. Other people want to join the scientific conversation. Good scientists, interested in finding truth, should want to encourage them, not put up the shutters. The wider world instinctively knows to distrust those in all walks of life who reject openness. As McIntyre put it recently, “probably no single issue damages the reputation of the climate science community more than the refusal to show the data that supports their work”. There should, for the good of science as well as public discourse, be a presumption in favour of open access.


A Vaccine Against Arrogance

(6 July 2011) There is a difference between science and politics. Science can tell us how much of a pollutant is present in a precisely defined area. It can tell us with reasonable certainty the sources of this pollution. It can even tell us the effects of this pollution. But science can not tell us the importance of these effects. Scientists acting in the name of science must remain mute on morality. They must remain agnostic, and should not preach.


Medical Science … corrupted again.

Time and again the medical profession is caught in unscientific behaviour at its top levels.

An epidemic of false claims

(31 May 2011) … Many studies that claim some drug or treatment is beneficial have turned out not to be true… Even when effects are genuine, their true magnitude is often smaller than originally claimed… The problem begins with the public’s rising expectations of science. Being human, scientists are tempted to show that they know more than they do… adequate safeguards against bias are lacking…

The crisis should not shake confidence in the scientific method. The ability to prove something false continues to be a hallmark of science. But scientists need to improve the way they do their research and how they disseminate evidence.

First … Many fields pay little attention to the need for replication or do it sparingly and haphazardly.

Second, scientific reports should take into account the number of analyses that have been conducted, which would tend to downplay false positives … large international collaborations may be indispensable. … It would help, too, if scientists stated up front the limitations of their data or inherent flaws in their study designs. Likewise, scientists and sponsors should be thorough in disclosing all potential conflicts of interest.


(5 May 2011) “… the levels effective against insect nerve function are orders of magnitude lower than any conceivable effect in humans. (A large 2008 U.S. study specifically seeking evidence of human health effects from the most commonly used OP pesticide, chlorpyrifos, found no such evidence.)”  “The Berkeley study is riddled with errors of commission and omission. It glibly assumes conclusions based on no science at all. For instance, despite the weak effect detected and the lack of any biologically plausible hypothesis of sufficient scientific merit to link pesticide exposure and IQ, the authors assert such a link; there is, simply, clearly no basis for implying a cause-and-effect relationship between the pesticide and change in IQ.”

(19 April 2011) A comprehensive review by the German Society of Toxicology of thousands of studies on BPA concluded, “[BPA] exposure represents no noteworthy risk to the health of the human population, including newborns and babies … This is a huge development in this ongoing saga and a major endorsement of the scientific method … The German science panel took a notable swipe at the critics’ central argument, the ultra-precautionary view that biological activity equates to harm”

Times Higher Education supplement

  Systems failure

(5 May 2011) “A scandal involving clinical trials based on research that was riddled with errors shows that journals, institutions and individuals must raise their standards …What lessons should be learned from the scandal? The first concerns the journals. They were not incompetent. Their embarrassing lapses stemmed from two tenets shared by many journals that are now out of date in the age of the internet. The first is that a research paper is the prime indicant of research …  [full] data and code… should be a condition of publication that these be made publicly available. The second tenet is that letters and discussions about defects in a published paper announcing new research have low status. Journals must acknowledge that falsifiability lies at the heart of the scientific endeavour. Science philosopher Karl Popper said that a theory has authority only as long as no one has provided evidence that shows it to be deficient.”


Social Scientist Sees Bias Within [UPDATE (11 Dec 2011) – video here]

(7 Feb 2011) Dr. Haidt argued that social psychologists are a “tribal-moral community” united by “sacred values” that hinder research and damage their credibility… In a 2007 study of both elite and non-elite universities, Dr. Gross and Dr. Simmons reported that nearly 80 percent of psychology professors are Democrats, outnumbering Republicans by nearly 12 to 1 … The fields of psychology, sociology and anthropology have long attracted liberals, but they became more exclusive after the 1960s …  “They’ll embrace science whenever it supports their sacred values, but they’ll ditch it or distort it as soon as it threatens a sacred value.” Instead of presuming discrimination in science or expecting the sexes to show equal interest in every discipline, the Cornell researchers say, universities should make it easier for women in any field to combine scholarship with family responsibilities.

My research, like so much research in social psychology, demonstrates that we humans are experts at using reasoning to find evidence for whatever conclusions we want to reach. We are terrible at searching for contradictory evidence. Science works because our peers are so darn good at finding that contradictory evidence for us. Social science — at least my corner of it — is broken because there is nobody to look for contradictory evidence regarding sacralized issues, particularly those related to race, gender, and class.


The Truth Wears Off – Is there something wrong with the Scientific Method?

Many results that are rigorously proved and accepted start shrinking in later studies.   access

(13 Dec 2010) This ubiquitous test was invented in 1922 by the English mathematician Ronald Fisher, who picked five per cent as the boundary line, somewhat arbitrarily, because it made pencil and slide-rule calculations easier. Sterling saw that if ninety-seven per cent of psychology studies were proving their hypotheses, either psychologists were extraordinarily lucky or they published only the outcomes of successful experiments. … But it’s becoming increasingly clear that publication bias also produces major distortions in fields without large corporate incentives, such as psychology and ecology.”


Climate Change and the Corruption of Science: Where did it all go wrong?

Climate Change Fashion Spread, The Age

(27 Dec 2010) “While the political extremes of AGW are astounding, what is for me most interesting about the AGW scare is not so much the public panic – we have seen that all before – but the pervasive infiltration of this scare into the scientific establishment, into its associations, its journals and its funding bodies. Why so successful, so rapid, so pervasive this corruption? …”


Is Science in The West (and scientists and universities) in danger of becoming associated with just one political party?

Political Affiliations of Scientists

(13 Dec 2010) “And what is that real issue?  The issue that Sarewitz raises is one of legitimacy.  All of us evaluate knowledge claims outside our own expertise (and actually very few people are in fact experts) based not on a careful consideration of facts and evidence, but by other factors, such as who we trust and how their values jibe with our own.  Thus if expert institutions are going to sustain and function in a democratic society they must attend to their legitimacy.  Scientific institutions that come to be associated with one political party risk their legitimacy among those who are not sympathetic to that party’s views.”

Lab Politics

(8 Dec 2010) “A Pew Research Center Poll from July 2009 showed that only around 6 percent of U.S. scientists are Republicans; 55 percent are Democrats, 32 percent are independent, and the rest “don’t know” their affiliation…why should it matter that there are so few Republican scientists? After all, it’s the scientific facts that matter, and facts aren’t blue or red… Think about it: The results of climate science, delivered by scientists who are overwhelmingly Democratic, are used over a period of decades to advance a political agenda that happens to align precisely with the ideological preferences of Democrats. Coincidence—or causation? American society has long tended toward pragmatism, with a great deal of respect for the value and legitimacy not just of scientific facts, but of scientists themselves … Yet this exceptional status could well be forfeit in the escalating fervor of national politics, given that most scientists are on one side of the partisan divide. If that public confidence is lost, it would be a huge and perhaps unrecoverable loss for a democratic society.”


High Priests Of (Climate) Science

(31 Oct 2010) “In reality there are only beliefs that are true, those that are false, those that are uncertain, and those that are nonsensical. There do not exist scientific truths, scientific falsities, scientific uncertainties. Saying that a truth has been proved scientifically is no different than saying that a truth has been proved—period. The only usefulness in the word “science” lies in its categorizing certain branches of investigation. “Scientist” is a job description, not an imprimatur.

“It is true that, through history, knowledge has increased, but it is not necessary that it always should. This is because is also true that falsehood has, at times, increased. If Somerville believes he has a truth that bears emphasis, it would be better for him to lay out the evidence which he believes prove his truth (he only provides guesses of the future). He should not rely on the fallacy that what he believes is true because he is a scientist.”


Is Science becoming Authoritarian?


(28 Sept 2010) “But along the way, an assortment of publicity-seeking, and often socially activist, scientists stopped saying, “Here are our findings. Read it and believe.” Instead, activist scientists such as NASA’s James Hansen, heads of quasi-scientific governmental organizations such as the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, editors of major scientific journals, and heads of the various national scientific academies are more inclined to say, “Here are our findings, and those findings say that you must change your life in this way, that way, or the other way.”


PostNormal “Science”


(9 Feb 2010) “In 1991 a Marxist philosopher called Jerome R. Ravetz had helped to invent a seductive and dangerous new concept called ‘post-normal science’ (PNS). No longer was it considered essential that scientists strive after objectivity. Their new duty, Ravetz held, was not to ‘truth’ but to what he called ‘quality’. And by ‘quality’ he meant something more akin to rhetoric — the ability to manipulate evidence and present it in such a way as to achieve particular political ends.”


The Limits of Science

“It is perhaps the biases of science reporting in the popular press that produce the most misinformation”

dodo flat earth 2.jpg

(20 Sept 2010) “Happily, there is another way out of the impasse between fallible science and even-more-fallible non-science. The contest is not a zero-sum game: the shortcomings of science do not make it rational to believe cranks instead. It’s a fair bet that many of today’s scientific beliefs are wrong, but only your grandchildren will know which ones, and in the meantime, science is the only game in town.”


Confronting Fraud in Science

I, spy

(August 2010) “Part of the reason for this fascination is the damage created by fraud, which not only pollutes the scientific sea, but also causes other scientists, including graduate students, to pursue research in erroneous directions. That cost in time, funding and hampered or even destroyed careers is not even calculable.

Another part of the fascination is that the typical scientist, when confronted with clear fraud, often remains in denial. As scientists, we train ourselves to detect what Irving Langmuir called “pathological science”, in which practitioners park their scientific method outside their laboratories and replace it with wishful thinking.”

[UPDATE: However … in Feb 2012 Peter Gleick did NOT live up to his speech about integrity in Science, So fall humans, when emotions blind their reasoning 😦  ]
Peter Gleick’s testimony on scientific integrity. (7 Feb 2007) He voices concerns about the following threats to scientific integrity (see especially the last page): appealing to emotions; making personal (ad hominem) attacks; deliberately mischaracterizing an inconvenient argument; inappropriate generalization; misuse of facts and uncertainties; false appeal to authority; hidden value judgments; selectively leaving out inconvenient measurement results.”

Authoritarian Science?
Science is losing its credibility because it has adopted an authoritarian tone, and has let itself be co-opted by politics (27 July 2010) … If science wants to redeem itself and regain its place with the public’s affection, scientists need to come out every time some politician says, “The science says we must…” and reply, “Science only tells us what is. It does not, and can never tell us what we should or must do.” See the Swedish comment here.
This is an example  of how the scientific method is often used and abused for other purposes, by politicians, NGOs (eg. Greenpeace, WWF etc) and The Media.