It takes moral courage to admit you’re wrong

“When the facts change, I change my mind.” said JM Keynes, arguably one of the most intelligent people of the twentieth century. We think that this is the mindset that defines LSS readers. Today we offer a short piece about a man called Bernard de Haas and his colleagues in one corner of the research community, which does them all immense credit.

Bernard had published a paper on using brain scans to measure changes in behaviour. It was all routine stuff; they did the work, checked out the statistics and published. A few years later anther researcher called Susanne Stroll contacted Bernard to discuss some problems growing out of his work. She didn’t do it a nasty vindictive way. Both teams joined in a collaborative approach to tease out the truth-and eventually Bernard felt he had to withdraw his findings. Nature explains below what happened.*

Not all scientists are like this, gentle reader: we have known several who delighted in discovering errors in the work of colleagues, and gleefully broadcasting them. While attempts to discuss their own shortcomings were met with sullen hostility and angry shouting. A bit like five year olds in fact.

The central problem for us all is: why are there so few Bernards and Susannes? Why are so many in the arrested development stage of a five year old? Who get hold of one tiny idea and twist every incoming fact so that it fits with their perception. Who can think of no better way to counter their opponents than to scream abuse? Who deny all facts and have no idea of shading or context? The problem is now acute. The internet is like a polluted stream: to drink from now is to endanger one’s health. Bernard’s article points out the psychological roots of intelligence. And the emotional roots of its opposite.

What my retraction taught me (nature.com)

The experience [of retracting a paper] has not left me bitter,” writes experimental psychologist Ben de Haas. “If anything, it brought me back to my original motivation for doing research.” Despite the pain of losing work he was proud of, solving a mystery and working collaboratively with fellow researchers was a positive experience overall. He calls for incentives that foster the common goal of better research.Nature | 5 min read

#fakenews #research #reason

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