Unsupervised Thinking
a podcast about neuroscience, artificial intelligence and science more broadly

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Episode 20: Studies on the State of Science

Sometimes scientists decide to turn their tools of inquiry inward to understand their own fields and behaviors. For our 20th episode, we're diving into this meta-science by reading some papers about papers written by scientists studying scientists. In particular, we start with a commentary discussing the increasing size of scientific teams, and what that means for credit assignment. Do we need to move to a more Hollywood approach by highlighting specific achievements in different roles? Also, when will we address the fact that most young researchers on these teams will not have a career in academic science? We then get into a modeling study that aims to show how incentivizing the publication of novel results can ultimately lead to a widespread decrease in scientific quality. This raises questions of whether individuals or the system is to blame for high rates of shoddy publications. We then touch on a small experiment that the conference NIPS (Neural Information Processing Systems) performed on their peer review system, showing that (spoiler alert!, or probably not if you've been subjected to peer review...) the process can appear somewhat random. Finally, we go over a report that tracked trends in neuroscience research over the past ten years. We find that a meta-study of a field can seem very different from the view inside of it. Finally, we mention how studies of science done by scientists differ from those done by the humanities, and how both may be of use.    

We read:
Together We Stand
The Natural Selection of Bad Science
The NIPS Experiment
The Changing Landscape of Neuroscience Research, 2006–2015: A Bibliometric Study

To listen to (or download) this episode, (right) click here.

As always, our jazzy theme music "Quirky Dog" is courtesy of Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) 

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