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Peter LaFrance

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Science of Science?


The following appeared in the New York Times on 18 March 2008 (The day after St. Patrick’s Day – Just a coincidence?) http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/18/science/18beer.html?ref=science

In this piece “For Scientists, a Beer Test Shows Results as a Litmus Test” , by CAROL KAESUK YOON it is posited by a “Dr. Tomas Grim, the author of the study and an ornithologist at Palacky University in the Czech Republic” that scientists who drink beer have less success in getting their research published.

The piece ends with a quote from the good professor – “In spite of his study, Dr. Grim, who said he would on occasion enjoy more than 12 beers in a night, is not on a campaign to decrease beer drinking among scientists. Why not? His answer: “I like it.””

I have not found the actual article as published in Oikos “a journal issued by the Nordic Ecological Society and is one of the leading peer-reviewed journals in ecology” but I take immediate exception to the method of his thesis. Did he compare his results to those who drink wine? Did he compare his results to those to drink spirits? I think not. The sort of “research” that posits and then “proves” the thesis is not only counterproductive but bad science.

As I understand the concept of true scientific research it involves throwing as wide a “net” as possible and then sorting the information into a coherent result. The sort of research done by Dr. Grim is as valid as the offering of the results of a “successful experiment”. The essence of “experiment” is to discover the unknown. To exercise a search or to test a predetermined posit is bogus science of the worst sort.

Peter LaFrance

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