Like the idea of shorter papers - I can definitely agree with your observation that a big part of most papers could be scrapped without a big problem.

Regarding your last point: I agree that we need to get better at fraud detection, however I am not sure if harsh, public punishment is the way to go about it. As you mentioned there is a lot of external pressure on (young) scientists to engage in "subtle fraud" and also, I believe that a lot of research mistakes do happen not with bad intentions but due to (sloppy) mistakes. In consequence, I was wondering whether it could be maybe more effective to push for a 'failure culture' in science and change the incentive system? This would entail e.g.:

- making it acceptable for someone to correct their own mistakes - if a scientist finds a mistake in his/her own study and corrects it, they should be congratulated and not shamed

- incentivize people to replicate/check each others work - checking other people's work currently isn't rewarded at all in the academic incentive system

- incentivize metastudies and aggregation of multiple studies (which would bolster the current evidence and make it harder for individual fraudsters to go unrecognized)

What do you think about that - curious to hear your opinion!

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Mar 1, 2022Liked by Dan Elton

Good ideas.

It's unfortunately tough to be a young academic these days -- lot of time spent trying to get positions, get grants and turn out papers.

I saw an interview of Peter Higgs a few years ago.... one sec..... ahh here it is:

"Peter Higgs, the British physicist who gave his name to the Higgs boson, believes no university would employ him in today's academic system because he would not be considered "productive" enough.

The emeritus professor at Edinburgh University, who says he has never sent an email, browsed the internet or even made a mobile phone call, published fewer than 10 papers after his groundbreaking work, which identified the mechanism by which subatomic material acquires mass, was published in 1964.

Speaking to the Guardian en route to Stockholm to receive the 2013 Nobel prize for science, Higgs, 84, said he would almost certainly have been sacked had he not been nominated for the Nobel in 1980. Edinburgh University's authorities then took the view, he later learned, that he "might get a Nobel prize – and if he doesn't we can always get rid of him"....."

Howard (Toronto)

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