SCIENCES

Science Fictions: How Fraud, Bias, Negligence, and Hype Undermine the Search for Truth

Metropolitan. Jul. 2020. 368p. ISBN 9781250222695. $29.99. SCI
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According to British psychologist Ritchie (Psychiatry Ctr., King’s Coll. London; Intelligence: All That Matters) objectivity, accuracy, and impartiality—cornerstones of the scientific process—have been replaced by the pressure to publish attention-grabbing, statistically significant, positive results. Much of the author’s critique focuses on the widespread manipulation of statistics by scientists who game the publication system to make their experimental results more publishable, allowing them to get away with faked data, exaggerated claims, and poor experimental design. Alarmingly, Ritchie claims this situation is not owing to a few corrupt people but rather “an entire culture gone awry.” Liberally documented with amazing stories of scientific misconduct at the highest levels (particularly the blatant fraud of a superstar trachea transplant surgeon who concealed the fact that his patients died), the book concludes with a discussion of how to restore scientific rigor and integrity to a broken system. Though much of the author’s discussion involves statistical techniques, they are so clearly explained that nonspecialists can easily follow.
VERDICT An uncompromising examination of the collision between the ideals of science and the realities of scientific publishing. Highly recommended for popular science readers curious about what lurks behind science headlines.

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