Beware: This Blog Apparently Causes Academic Fraud

Way to scapegoat, Chronicle of Higher Education!

An article about a Dutch psychologist accused of faking his research data wonders if academic fraudsters are responding to the wrong incentives:

Is a desire to get picked up by the Freakonomics blog, or the dozens of similar outlets for funky findings, really driving work in psychology labs? Alternatively—though not really mutually exclusively—are there broader statistical problems with the field that let snazzy but questionable findings slip through?

Research Retractions Rising

There's a new trend emerging in academic research: more retractions. According to a recent article in Nature by Richard Van Noorden, "[i]n the early 2000s, only about 30 retraction notices appeared annually. This year, the Web of Science is on track to index more than 400 (see 'Rise of the retractions') — even though the total number of papers published has risen by only 44% over the past decade."

The article suggests that the increase is a result of 'an increased awareness of research misconduct" and "the emergence of software for easily detecting plagiarism and image manipulation, combined with the greater number of readers that the Internet brings to research papers."

While scientists and editors support the change, they point to various problems with the system: policy inconsistencies across journals, "opaque" explanations for retractions, ongoing citation of retraction papers and the stigma surrounding retraction. "[B]ecause almost all of the retractions that hit the headlines are dramatic examples of misconduct, many researchers assume that any retraction indicates that something shady has occurred," writes Van Noorden.

The Latest from the Brookings Panel

I’m back from my favorite conference of the year—the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity. It was a terrific line-up of papers. And to call the discussion lively would be an understatement. (Full disclosure: David Romer and I are the co-editors.)

While a close reading of technical research papers is my idea of a good time, I’m told not everyone is wired this way. So I went into the studio to record a very simple summary of my thoughts on the papers. You won’t quite get the whole two days of economic policy wonk-ery, but this video is a start:

A Twitter Experiment

I’m a long-time Twitter skeptic. It’s difficult for an economist to see a 140 char lmt as a ftr. My journalist friends tell me I’m dead wrong. And a recent long and boozy evening with co-founders Evan Williams and Jason Goldman convinced me to give it a try. Is Twitter worth the hype? Let’s find out.

Today I’m beginning my Twitter Experiment. I’m now tweeting @justinwolfers. I’m going to keep this up for a couple of weeks as a “burn in” period—basically so that I can learn the ecosystem before my experiment begins. Then on the morning of August 1, I’m going to wake up, and flip a coin. Heads, I’ll open Twitter; tails I won’t. And I’ll do the same on August 2, and then every day for three months. If the coin comes up heads, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I’ll tweet, just that it will be a Twitter-aware day; I’ll consume the stream, and tweet away if I feel the need. Tails, and I’ll simply tweet “Tails, goodbye,” close the stream (unless I need it for research) and then resist the urge to tweet for the rest of the day.

North American Economists Are Losing Market Share

A new research paper shows that North American economists have lost a lot of market share in research publication to the rest of the world -- but mainly to European economists.

How to Streamline Drug Research?

We all know that information is valuable, and that more information is generally better than less.

But in the realm of pharmaceutical research (as in others, to be sure), there's a troubling paradox: while successes are widely publicized, and while the results of clinical trials are usually published, the research from projects that fail before that stage is usually kept hidden.

Your Tax Dollars at Work (Seriously)

A long-standing pet peeve of mine is that so much academic research is funded by public tax dollars and yet the public is rarely given access to the findings of that research.

In a short Times piece today, I found a hero: Michael Tuts, a particle physicist at Columbia who, among other things, is doing work at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research:

Our Daily Bleg: How to Justify Long-Term Scientific Research?

In response to our bleg request, Rafe Petty of the University of Chicago chemistry department wrote in with the following question(s). Let him know what you think in the comments section, and send future blegs to: I was recently at a lecture by George Whitesides, one of the most well-known living chemists. He gave […]

What Do Declining Abortion Rates Mean for Crime in the Future?

The abortion rate in the United States is at a thirty year low — though even with the decline, we are still talking about a large number of abortions in absolute terms, or 1.2 million per year. To put this number into perspective, there are about 4 million births per year in the U.S. John […]

‘The Isaac Newton of Biology’

Talk about a nickname that is hard to live up to! Franziska Michor, who is a friend, former Harvard Society Fellow, and honorary economist, is featured in this year’s Esquire “Genius” edition under the headline “The Isaac Newton of Biology.” And she is only 25, and can also drive an eighteen-wheeler. Here is a link […]