Category Archives: Science and the scientific method

Facebook Users Regularly Treated Like Guinea Pigs

A new Wall Street Journal story probes the frequency and casualness with which Facebook ran experiments with the explicit aim of manipulating users’ emotions. Some commentators pooh poohed the concern about the study, saying that companies try influencing customers all the time. But the difference here is that manipulation usually takes place in a selling context, where the aims of the vendor, to persuade you to buy their product, are clear. Here, the study exposed initially, that of skewing the mix of articles in nearly 700,000 Facebook subscribers’ news feeds, was done in a context where participants would have no reason to question the information they were being given.

While the controversial emotions study may have been Facebook’s most questionable study, it is the tip of an experimentation iceberg.

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The Crapification of Biomedical Research

An urgent warning from PNAS, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:

In the context of such progress, it is remarkable that even the most successful scientists and most promising trainees are increasingly pessimistic about the future of their chosen career. Based on extensive observations and discussions, we believe that these concerns are justified and that the biomedical research enterprise in the United States is on an unsustainable path.

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Columbia Tosses Out Star Faculty Researchers for Failing to Pay 80% of Their Own Way

From a reader: “two eminent professors with decades of serious work have been dumped unceremoniously by Columbia because they could no longer bring in the grant millions for the university business to extract rent from. This is Ivy-league neoliberalism at its worst thanks to the spineless Democrats/Obama White House allowing government science funding to get pummeled while Bush’s tax cuts are preserved. “

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Philip Pilkington: Abstraction, Language and Modelling in Economics

Alciphron is the title of the book by the philosopher George Berkeley that was most popular in his own time and is probably his least popular in ours. But in the Seventh Dialogue, Berkeley sketches out some very interesting ideas on human language — something that he recognised as being an absolutely central philosophical question and one that bears directly upon economics.

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Bob Goodwin: Mainstream Medicine Capture of Wikipedia

Yves here. Wikipedia has become widely accepted as a highly credible source (I use it and even contributed in their recent funding appeal). It’s therefore important to know its limits and how they arise. Unfortunately, it appears, like most information sources, that it is subject to pressure, in this case, as Bob Goodwin contends, the medical-industrial complex.

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