Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

# CategoryPeer Review

## Gloomy News from a Nature Article: Is the End of Science Near?

A study in the premier science journal notes the long term falling off of truly original findings, as opposed to endless citations of others’ findings

Science writer Tibi Puiu reports on new findings that reflect what many today, have begun to suspect: Over the past few decades, the number of science and technology research papers published has soared, rising at a rate of nearly 10% each year. In the biomedical field alone, there are more than a million papers pouring into the PubMed database each year, or around two studies per minute… The new study revealed that the “disruptiveness” of contemporary science has decreased, rendering ever diminishing returns. In this particular context, authors define disruptiveness as the degree to which a study departs from previous literature and renders it obsolete. In other words, a highly disruptive study is one that completely changes the way we Read More ›

## When Scholars Simply Don’t Want To Believe Something Obvious…

… they are very good at developing clever arguments to avoid seeing it

This article was originally published in Salvo 62 (Fall 2022) under the title “The Whitewashing.” In Hitler’s Ethic: The Nazi Pursuit of Evolutionary Progress (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), University of California historian Richard Weikart demonstrated painstakingly that the Nazis had developed an ethic based largely on applying Darwinian evolution principles to government. Scholars have since tried hard to obscure the connection, most likely because they believe in Darwinism and see it as science. Any suggestion that the Nazis were avid Darwinists too is unseemly and must be refuted by any and all means. With racism very much in current news, Weikart has focusing in Darwinian Racism: How Darwinism Influenced Hitler, Nazism, and White Nationalism (Discovery Institute Press, 2022) on the way Read More ›

## How the Inflation of Journal Citations Impacts Academia

Adjusted for inflation, a citation today is worth about half what it was ten years ago

Over 30 years ago, I coauthored a book, Neural Smithing, on training artificial neural networks. In 2021 it was cited 112 times — more than in any previous year. Why? I wish the only reason was that my book is a classic and has stood the test of time. But the book was on training neural networks and a lot has happened in that field over the last 30 years. Another, more substantial reason, I’m afraid, is citation inflation. Stated simply, there are many more citations today than a few years ago and my book is catching its fair share. Monetary inflation can be corrected to tell us the value of a year 2000 dollar in 2022. Likewise, citation inflation Read More ›

Opponents are angered by the fact that, although the conference will be live-streamed, it is by invitation only and no media are allowed

Stanford Business School’s academic freedom conference, starting next week and headlined by tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel, is coming under fire. The organizers argue, Faculty organizers of the conference, from Stanford and several other institutions, promote it as follows: “Academic freedom, open inquiry, and freedom of speech are under threat as they have not been for decades. Visibly, academics are ‘canceled,’ fired, or subject to lengthy disciplinary proceedings in response to academic writing or public engagement. Less visibly, funding agencies, university bureaucracies, hiring procedures, promotion committees, professional organizations, and journals censor some kinds of research or demand adherence to political causes. Many parts of universities have become politicized or have turned into ideological monocultures, excluding people, ideas, or kinds of work Read More ›

## The Hyper-Specialization of University Researchers

So many papers are published today in increasingly narrow specialties that, if there is still a big picture, hardly anyone can see it

The Bible warns that, “Of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” Nowadays, the endless making of books is dwarfed by the relentless firehose of academic research papers. A 2010 study published in the British Medical Journal reported that the U.S. National Library of Medicine includes 113,976 papers on echocardiography — which would weary the flesh of any newly credentialed doctor specializing in echocardiography: We assumed that he or she could read five papers an hour (one every 10 minutes, followed by a break of 10 minutes) for eight hours a day, five days a week, and 50 weeks a year; this gives a capacity of 10000 papers in one year. Read More ›

## The Threat That Deepfakes Pose to Science Journals

Image manipulation has been a problem for decades but convincing deepfakes could magnify the problem considerably

When a team of researchers at Xiamen University decided to create and test deepfakes of conventional types of images in science journals, they came up with a sobering surprise. Their deepfakes were easy to create and hard to detect. Generating fake photographs in this way, the researchers suggest, could allow miscreants to publish research papers without doing any real research. Bob Yirka, “Computer scientists suggest research integrity could be at risk due to AI generated imagery” at Tech Explore (May 25, 2022) They created the deepfakes in a conventional way by starting with a competition between two powerful computer systems: To demonstrate the ease with which fake research imagery could be generated, the researchers generated some of their own using Read More ›

## The Brady Bunch – Why Research Should Be Guided By Common Sense

Do our names really influence our choice in profession or the way our lives play out?

The credibility of scientific research is undermined by scientists torturing and mining data in a tenacious search for media-friendly results. Media-friendly findings tend to be entertaining, provocative, and surprising, and there is a good reason why they are surprising – they are wrong. Here is an example from BMJ, a top-tier medical journal. A paper with the alluring title, “The Brady Bunch?,” investigated “nominative determinism,” the idea that our surnames influence our choice of professions. With my name being Smith, I might have been predestined to choose to be a blacksmith or silversmith. That didn’t happen, but a newspaper article did find “a dermatologist called Rash, a rheumatologist named Knee, and a psychiatrist named Couch.” The authors of the BMJ Read More ›

## Get Your 8 (or 5?) Hours of Sleep

Data misrepresentation may win you big gigs, but it makes a bad name for scientists

Matthew Walker is a professor of neuroscience and psychology and founder of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley. He has become famous for his book and a TED talk promoting the importance of sleep for health and performance. He even got a job at Google as a “sleep scientist.” Walker has a receptive audience because he is entertaining and his arguments make sense. In one of his books, Walker used a graph similar to the figure below to show that a study done by other researchers had found that adolescent athletes who sleep more are less likely to be injured. The figure is compelling, but there are several potential problems. The hours-of-sleep data were based on 112 responses to an online Read More ›

## Will the Real “Predatory Journal” Please Stand Up?

Large publishers serve themselves by painting "predatory journals" with a broad brush

The scientific publishing industry has been on a hunt for what it calls “predatory journals.” They want to make sure that all scientific publications occur in “legitimate” and “reputable” journals. Additionally, they encourage scholars to avoid “predatory” journals which are there merely to enrich themselves by having you pay for access. While I agree with these ideas in principle, I’ve noticed more and more that the way that these principles are applied has been, well, incredibly self-serving for the journals. To begin with, let’s look at a commentary on predatory journals published in 2019 in the journal Nature: Predatory journals are a global threat. They accept articles for publication — along with authors’ fees — without performing promised quality checks for issues such Read More ›

## Will the Sokal Hoaxes Worsen the Academic Echo Chamber?

When only mainstream thinking is allowed, insularity and echo chambers are the result

The latest spate of academic hoaxes, which includes not only the latest Sokal hoax, but also fake papers being published in journals such as the Arabian Journal of Geosciences, is a major cause for concern. While the hoaxes themselves are problematic, what is likely to be worse is the ongoing fallout for researchers and new ideas. Academics has long had a problem of being insular. Many papers are published on the basis of your status in academics, not the quality of the paper itself. This is not to say that the papers didn’t legitimately pass peer review (though that is questionable in some cases), but rather that the editor decides which papers are “worthy” of peer review based on the editor’s knowledge Read More ›

## Be On the Lookout for More Sokal Hoaxes

If you spot a Sokal hoax, let us know by tagging @cnaintelligence on Twitter

In a previous article, we noted that a group of researchers have been testing the rigor of social science journals by submitting fake articles and data in order to demonstrate problems in these branches of academics. These hoaxes, known as Sokal hoaxes (named after the original hoaxer, Alan Sokal), have now begun their third round, with the first detected paper in the journal Higher Education Quarterly. The paper, “Donor money and the academy: Perceptions of undue donor pressure in political science, economics, and philosophy,” has now been retracted, but it looks like this is not quite the end of the matter. The Chronicle of Higher Education managed to get in contact with the Sokal hoaxers. While their identities are anonymous, they responded to emails sent to the Read More ›

## Are Sokal Hoaxes Really Helping Reform Science?

The evidence is mixed. The current prank on Higher Education Quarterly prompts some questions

## Why Did Video Gamers Uncover Fraud More Easily Than Scientists?

Video gamers are subject, a psychologist tells us, to much more rigorous constraints than scientists

In a recent article at The Atlantic, King’s College psychologist Stuart Ritchie, author of Science Fictions: How Fraud, Bias, Negligence and Hype Undermine the Search for Truth (2020), has noted a curious fact: Video gamers are much quicker to spot fraud than scientists. The video game fraud he focuses on involved a gamer’s claim that he had finished a round of Minecraft in a little over 19 minutes, a feat he attributed, Ritchie tells us, to “an incredible stretch of good luck.” “Incredible” is the right choice of word here. “Dream,” as the player was known, later admitted — in the face of skepticism — that he had “inadvertently” left some software running that improved his game — thus disqualifying Read More ›

## Emotion Recognition Software Use Spreads While Science Is Doubted

Emotional recognition software has been coming under fire for misuse and racial bias for some time

An editor at AI Trends notes The global emotion detection and recognition market is projected to grow to $37.1 billion by 2026, up from an estimated$19.5 billion in 2020, according to a recent report from MarketsandMarkets. North America is home to the largest market. John P. Desmond, “Market for Emotion Recognition Projected to Grow as Some Question Science” at AI Trends (June 24, 2021) But the software has been coming under fire for misuse and racial bias for some time: “How people communicate anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise varies substantially across cultures, situations, and even across people within a single situation,” stated the report, from a team of researchers led by Lisa Feldman Barrett, of Northeastern University, Read More ›

## A Vulnerable System: Fake Papers and Imaginary Scientists

Publication counts and citation indexes are too noisy and too easily manipulated to be reliable

In the last two posts, we examined how scientific publication has ceased to be a good measure of scientific accomplishment, and how the peer review system is being gamed by unscrupulous publishers and researchers alike. Now, we will continue the discussion on the undermining of scientific publication using two examples: SCIgen and citation counts. SCIgen In 2005 three MIT graduate computer science students created a prank program they called SCIgen for using randomly selected words to generate bogus computer-science papers complete with realistic graphs of random numbers. Their goal was “maximum amusement rather than coherence,” and also to demonstrate that some academic conferences will accept almost anything. They submitted a hoax paper titled, “Rooter: A Methodology for the Typical Unification of Access Points and Redundancy,” Read More ›

## Gaming the System: The Flaws in Peer Review

Peer review is well-intentioned, but flawed in many ways

Last time, we examined how scientific publication has ceased to be a good measure of scientific accomplishment because it has now become a target, following Goodhart’s Law. In today’s post, we will continue that examination by turning to the peer review system, and how that system is being gamed by unscrupulous publishers and researchers alike. In theory, the peer review process is intended to ensure that research papers do not get published unless impartial experts in the field deem them worthy of publication. Peer review is well-intentioned, but flawed in many ways. First, the best researchers are incredibly busy and naturally more inclined to do their own research than to review someone else’s work. Thus, peer review is often cursory or Read More ›

## Publish or Perish — Another Example of Goodhart’s Law

In becoming a target, publication has ceased to be a good measure

The linchpin of scientific advances is that scientists publish their findings so that others can learn from them and expand on their insights. This is why some books are rightly considered among the most influential mathematical and scientific books of all time:  Elements, Euclid, c. 300 B.C.Physics, Aristotle, c. 330 B.C.On the Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres, Nicolaus Copernicus, 1543Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, Galileo Galilei, 1632Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, Isaac Newton, 1687The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin, 1859 As Newton said, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” It seems logical to gauge the importance of modern-day researchers by how much they have published and how often their research has been cited Read More ›

## Inside the Economics of Science Papers

When a scholarly paper is published, someone has to pay. Publishers like Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), my professional society, and Springer charge big bucks to read their papers. The fees are billed to individual subscribers and, more commonly, to companies and universities who want to give their employees access to the papers. My own university, Baylor, like most research universities, has a considerable library budget on account of these publisher fees. There is growing pressure to kill these fees in favor of “open access” to scholarly papers. Thus, anyone can read a scholarly paper at any time for free. Free access takes the money from the pockets of publishers so they push back. Someone has to pay, Read More ›

## Gregory Chaitin on How Bureaucracy Chokes Science Today

He complains, They’re managing to make it impossible for anybody to do any real research. You have to say in advance what you’re going to accomplish. You have to have milestones, reports

In last week’s podcast, “The Chaitin Interview III: The Changing Landscape for Mathematics,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviewed mathematician and computer scientist Gregory Chaitin on how Stephen Wolfram’s software has taken much of the drudgery out of math. At the same time, in Chaitin’s view, a threat looms: A new, more bureaucratic, mindset threatens to take the creativity out of science, technology, and math: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-126-Gregory-Chaitin.mp3 This portion begins at 19:45 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: I was sitting down tallying, I think, the intellectual giants that have introduced new mathematical ideas, brand new. I was thinking of people like Claude Shannon, Lotfi Zadeh, yourself… I don’t know if we Read More ›

## Why Don’t We See Many Great Books on Math Any More?

Decades ago, Gregory Chaitin reminds us, mathematicians were not forced by the rules of the academic establishment to keep producing papers, so they could write key books.

In our most recent podcast, “The Chaitin Interview III: The Changing Landscape for Mathematics,” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks interviewed mathematician and computer scientist Gregory Chaitin on many things mathematical, including whether math is invented or discovered. This time out, Chaitin talks about why he thinks great books on math, advancing new theorems, aren’t written much any more: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-126-Gregory-Chaitin.mp3 This portion begins at 02:49 min. A partial transcript, Show Notes, and Additional Resources follow. Robert J. Marks: You don’t hear the word “scholarship” very much anymore in academia. Gregory Chaitin: And people don’t write books. In the past, some wonderful mathematicians like G. H. Hardy (1877–1947, pictured in 1927) would write wonderful books like A Mathematician’s Apology (1940) Read More ›