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The big pre-registration debate

Posted 25 July 2013 by Pete Etchells

At the start of June, Dr Chris Chambers and Prof Marcus Munafo, along with over 80 other signatories, posted an open letter in the Guardian calling for more journals to role out a new type of research paper, in which methods and analyses are peer reviewed before data are collected. Chris has blogged about this initiative before - see here. Today, Prof Sophie Scott published an article in the THE, in response to that original Guardian letter, criticising pre-registration. I... Read more

It’s not a failure when you fail to replicate

Posted 3 May 2013 by Pete Etchells

Let’s get this out there to begin with, so it’s absolutely clear in everyone’s minds. ‘Failure to replicate’ a study does not mean that the original study was wrong, poor, or fraudulently conducted. It does not call into question an entire field of science. It does not call into question the integrity of any scientists involved. It means that the results of the replication did not match the original study, which could be for a number of reasons. It is... Read more

Academic nominative determinism: the year’s best examples

Posted 24 December 2012 by Pete Etchells

Here's a bit of fun for you, to end 2012 with. About a year or so ago, I developed an interest/mild obsession in 'nominative determinism', or the idea that a person's name somehow has some sort of effect on their career choice. Although the concept has been floating around for decades, it was an article in the New Scientist that jump-started the term nominative determinism itself, in 1994:   "We recently came across a new book, Pole Positions - The... Read more

PSA: The apocalypse and you

Posted 18 December 2012 by Pete Etchells

  You may have heard that the world is ending this Friday. We don't know how, or when precisely - those damn dirty scientists know, but they're not telling us. But we do know that it's all because of the Mayans. As everyone knows from high school history, the Mayans were a group of people who lived about 20,000 years ago in what is now known as Sheffield, and had amazing powers over life, the universe and everything. They were... Read more

Why I hate neurons

Posted 20 November 2012 by Pete Etchells

Hey. You people over there, the ones who like sciencey sorts of things - I have a question for you all. Who inspired your original spark of interest in it in the first place? Did you hate it at school, only to throw yourself into it as an adult? Was your physics teacher the one who really made you think about life, the universe and everything? Maybe it was a book you read? It doesn't even have to be about... Read more

Fixing the Fraud: Special Announcement

Posted 16 October 2012 by Pete Etchells

  Exciting news! Next month, at SpotOn London, fellow blogger and scientist Suzi Gage and I are co-ordinating a discussion session on academic misconduct. There's been tons of stuff in the news about this recently, and we feel that now is the time to actually start doing something about it. Over the next month, Counterbalanced and Sifting the Evidence will be hosting guest posts from some of our session panellists, as well as insight, analysis and links from around the... Read more

Sigman’s cherry-picking problem

Posted 9 October 2012 by Pete Etchells

Aric Sigman is back in the news today, with a number of media outlets picking up that he has written a review for the Archives of Disease in Childhood on the need to set limits on the amount of time children spend watching TV and playing video games. This is a clearly a hugely important issue - as I've noted before, there is a good deal of evidence to suggest that hours spent watching television are correlated with negative health... Read more

Hey science, what’s going on?

Posted 2 October 2012 by Pete Etchells

To many, retracted science papers are an unfortunate part of the process. With the best intent, we are told, scientists are only human, and will inevitably make mistakes. And it's a good thing that retractions exist - it shows honesty and integrity in the system; that scientists are willing to admit to their mistakes, and correct them for the common good. Or so we've been led to believe. As Carl Zimmer notes in a recent New York Times piece, Nature... Read more

Surviving the PhD write up

Posted 4 September 2012 by Pete Etchells

I remember when I started my PhD, the write-up seemed like an insurmountable obstacle that was thankfully far enough in the future at that point to ignore - how the hell do you write 40,000+ words about something so difficult? Then three years passed in the blink of an eye, and I found myself standing in base camp, with the thesis fast having to become a reality. For those of you who are about to find yourself in the same situation,... Read more

Goodnight, Mr Armstrong

Posted 26 August 2012 by Pete Etchells

Thank you for giving me a sense of wonder every time I looked up at the moon when I was growing up. Thank you for helping me to dream about what planets we might see people step foot on in the future, even if that wasn't your intent. And most of all, thank you for showing me that goodness, integrity, dignity and respect are earned by the actions over a lifetime, not just during a few fleeting moments on a... Read more