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Science Fictions: The Epidemic of Fraud, Bias, Negligence and Hype in Science

4.47  ·  Rating details ·  565 ratings  ·  95 reviews
A major exposé that reveals the absurd and shocking problems that pervade and undermine contemporary science.

So much relies on science. But what if science itself can’t be relied on?

Medicine, education, psychology, health, parenting – wherever it really matters, we look to science for advice. Science Fictions reveals the disturbing flaws that undermine our understanding of
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Paperback, 368 pages
Published July 21st 2020 by Bodley Head
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Carl Federl It appears the "Hypeology" was the working title but the published title begins with "Science Fictions."

Reference: https://www.thebookseller.com/news…more
It appears the "Hypeology" was the working title but the published title begins with "Science Fictions."

Reference: https://www.thebookseller.com/news/bo...(less)

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Gavin
Jul 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: very-useful, pop-sci
Wonderful introduction to meta-science. I've been obsessively tracking bad science since I was a teen, and I still learned loads of new examples. (Remember that time NASA falsely declared the discovery of an unprecedented lifeform? Remember that time the best university in Sweden completely cleared their murderously fraudulent surgeon?)

Science has gotten a bit fucked up. But at least we know about it, and at least it's the one institution that has a means and a track record of unfucking itself.

R
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Andy
Sep 24, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an important topic, and the author does an excellent job explaining problems like p-hacking. But these issues are nothing new to scientists, so the main value of this book is if it engages and clearly explains things for the general public. And there, I’m afraid the author may end up just increasing confusion by trying to turn everyone into a scientist. In terms of solutions to bad science, I wonder if we don’t need to start by addressing the underlying culture of corruption and incompet ...more
Julia
Jul 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most important books I’ve read in the past few years. Ritchie skillfully examines the problems plaguing modern science, looks at the motivations that cause them, and posits solutions. Science Fictions drives home the importance for skepticism in all things, even science.
Alvaro de Menard
Jul 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In 1945, Robert Merton wrote:

There is only this to be said: the sociology of knowledge is fast outgrowing a prior tendency to confuse provisional hypothesis with unimpeachable dogma; the plenitude of speculative insights which marked its early stages are now being subjected to increasingly rigorous test.


Then, 16 years later:

After enjoying more than two generations of scholarly interest, the sociology of knowledge remains largely a subject for meditation rather than a field of sustained and metho
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J.J.
Jan 23, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First of all the title slaps, this is the kind of word play you want in a popular science book title.

Ritchie grabs your attention with some spicy cases of scientific fraud, but follows up with other pernicious problems that lead science astray. He goes on to suggest changes to the way research is conducted, funded, reviewed and published to right some of these wrongs. A worthwhile read (or listen) for researchers or mere muggles like myself.
muthuvel
Jan 06, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology, politics
Nobel Laureate Economist Daniel Kahneman, in his work targeted to public audience 'Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011)' talks about the certainty of Priming effects through citing various psychological studies and thereby claimed certain stimulus can be produced without conscious guidance or intention and that which can be patterned. It was one of the widely read popular bestsellers in the genre but things of uncertainty were likely after a few years when the studies he cited were failed to replicate ...more
Sophia
Oct 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
I highly recommend this book for anyone planning (or considering) to do science, either a bachelors, masters or more. It's a great overview of how science is actually practiced, and how it can so easily go wrong. I also recommend this to current scientists, because it's a humbling reminder of what we're doing wrong, and also a quick update on things we might have been taught as facts has actually been disproven in the meantime.
The book is exceptionally well structured, very clear writing, very
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Agne
Dec 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Extremely informative and well argued. I would suggest it to anyone who has any contact with science in their daily life (so... everyone). I loved the examples and statistics and that it's at the same time really approachable. For the layperson, it's pretty shocking to hear how null results and replication studies have been treated by even reputable journals.

There are a bunch of solutions offered at the end.

The only downside is that if an aspiring scientist were to read this book, they might t
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Pete
Jan 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, science
Science Fictions : The Epidemic of Fraud, Bias, Negligence and Hype in Science (2020) by Stuart Ritchie is an excellent book that looks at the many problems in science and what can be done to improve the situation. Ritchie is a Psychologist at King’s College London.

Science Fictions goes through how science currently works and then details the replication crisis, where the replication of studies, particularly in psychology but also in other fields demonstrated serious problems with science as it
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Steve
Aug 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this description of some of the big problems in science today. This is not in any way an anti-science book, Ritchie makes clear that he wants to improve science, not to dispense with it. Along with describing problems he also describes much of the process of science which I enjoyed.

He spends a lot of time on the reproducibility crises, p-hacking and other statistical cheating, and many other issues that one hears about when science problems get in the news.

This book has been wel
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Chris Boutté
Jul 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Incredible book that I binged in a day. As an influencer who often references psychological studies but also knows how much bad science is out there, I’m always trying to learn more about this subject.

This author did a great job not just giving examples of bad science, but he explains WHY it’s happening and offers solutions. Absolutely loved this book and hope some journalists read it as well before they keep reporting on hyped up science.
Cam
Oct 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Essential reading for graduate science researchers. Although, much of the material will hopefully be familiar to them.

Ritchie writes clearly. He's likeable and scientifically and statistically literate, but doesn't take himself too seriously. He's a great science populariser even when he is denigrating science!

Ritchie helped kick off the well-publicised replication crisis in social science in 2012 when he attempted and failed to replicate a para-psychology paper. The original paper by Bem purpo
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Fin Moorhouse
Dec 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
As other reviewers have said: sober, balanced, hopeful cataloguing of perverse incentives in present-day science, plus some potential fixes. A highlight was learning about this actual paper, accepted for publication in the 'International Journal of Advanced Computer Technology'.

What stood out for me was how superbly well-written this was. It's friendly and funny and crystal clear. Infuriating for anyone who's tried and failed hard to find that voice in their own writing!
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Tristan Eagling
Aug 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Goodharts's law states "When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure", which sums up the premise of the book perfectly. For centuries, science has tried to give value to subjective knowledge and academia relies on these often arbitrary metrics. But all we have done is create a system which can be gamed, and populated that system with clever (mostly) people who are heavily incentivized to game the system.

As someone who has published scientific research, peer reviewed others and
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Anthony D'Ambrosio
Nov 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Pleasantly surprised by how often the phrase "salami slicing" appears ...more
MIKE Watkins Jr.
Aug 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book reminds me of another book I read, the color of law. Like the Color of Law, this is a book that is very informative and will transform the way you think about the topic discussed in this book, but it lacks a few key ingredients that prevent it from being a 5/5 read.

This book starts out by introducing you to how science works and how that science is publicized.

1. A scientist comes up with a scientific theory/question to look into and comes up with an hypothesis.

2. The scientist attempts
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Mbogo J
Oct 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Science is the new god, a deity that has gotten its power too fast and too much, it has behaved the same way a human would;it became power drunk. The hostile takeover it did on religion as the preeminent field of knowledge that guides human affairs left it feeling smug and thought itself immune to the same pitfalls that had befallen religion. The end result? The current state of an epidemic of fraud, negligence, bias and hype.

Stuart Ritchie took us across the current landscape of science as prac
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Kyle
Oct 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a good read, in the sense that it clarified the problems that science faces (at least, for me). Ritchie does a good job of bringing in a lot of material to tell the story of the troubling findings of recent years. Ritchie focuses mostly on psychology, his area of expertise, and so while I found his thoughts very interesting for psychological and medical research, I did wonder about how some of it might translate to mathematics or physics. Reproducibility does not appear to be as much of ...more
William Schram
Sep 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, criticism
Science is an ancient and vaunted establishment. It has done so much good for the world that it is sometimes easy to forget that science is a human construct. Scientists are human beings and are prone to making mistakes. This issue already surfaced for me in nutritional science. It seemed that every week a new food was discovered to cause cancer or to extend your lifespan. It sickens me to no end.

Science Fictions is by Stuart Ritchie. It discusses the various issues that scientists have to deal
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Mizuki
Sep 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is not usual 'science fiction', do not expect that. It is about scientific fraud, full of well-known cases. I'm quite familiar with these cases as a scientist, and even as a reader of many scientific literatures.
Most of the points that the author says are painfully true - I know that is true, especially about the publication bias. Most scientists just want to publish their "best" data even if it is not reproducible well enough.
On the other hand, I somewhat want to believe that most sci
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Ryan
Dec 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book covers the "replication crisis" in science and some of the causes of it -- not merely "how bad science is done" but also the motivations and "why". There has been some progress in the past few years in fighting this, but there are a lot of motivations for why people will continue to do things which are bad or counterproductive (including unintentionally). I'm somewhat optimistic science will ultimately figure out better was to communicate and value research which will help solve the pr ...more
Ulrich Schroeders
Aug 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psych, science
This book is an important contribution to the so-called replication crisis in science. Ritchie neatly and clearly sums up the current state of affairs and unmasks the crisis as a social phenomenon that is strongly driven by communicative processes. The bigger picture across different scientific disciplines was very instructive. I also found a lot of new and useful references. I definitely recommend this book to every (psychology) student and researcher.
Morgan
Jan 17, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Presents critical issues in science in a layperson-friendly way and provides some interesting ideas for solutions — and is humble enough to recognize the possible problems with those proposed solutions. My only gripe is that the book felt somewhat repetitive at times and could have been a little shorter, but overall this is a good read, especially for someone newer to the issues it discusses.
Ryan
Oct 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Science Fictions is an important book, which is aimed primarily at a non-scientific audience. It builds upon a number of other books about scientific practices, and covers some of the same ground as for work by Ben Goldacre [1, 2] who the author cites. The author is a lecturer in Psychology, and most of the examples are drawn from this area, medicine, and social sciences in general - you can expect to read some discussion about for e.g. the Andrew Wakefield scandal, Cochrane reviews, pre-study r ...more
Scott Lupo
Oct 21, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
AVOID. Here are my reasons:
-From the beginning, this author lost my trust. In the preface, the author mentions how him and some colleagues wrote a null paper on the psychic experiments by Daryl Bem and was "unceremoniously rejected from the journal that published the original." The leaves the reader thinking that he never got that study published and moves on to the next subject. WRONG. Read the notes and you will find it did get published, just not to his liking.

-Read the notes. It's another w
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Liam Crismani
Jul 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant. Comprehensive but easy to understand exploration of the problems in the ways we currently do science.
Jesse Field
Feb 17, 2021 rated it really liked it
This book certainly reminds me of the work of Nassin Nicholas Taleb as injunctions toward skepticism. Stuart Ritchie is sort of the Taleb of science. Both even make mention of Daniel Kahneman’s work, though Ritchie uses it as illustration of problems in science (‘priming’ effects were found not to be defended as well as Kahnman found in his original work) where Taleb makes extensive use of the survivorship bias concept. Ritchie is a better writer than Taleb, I find, giving us clear accounts and ...more
Dylan O'Connell
Aug 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Almost certain to be the book I annoyingly recommend to everyone I meet for the next few months.

“Science Fictions” is a vitally needed introductory text to the current crisis (crises?) in science, and I wish it was getting more “buzz” (podcast interview circuit, take note). Most readers will be individual with different individual parts–the reproducibility crisis in psychology, the dangers of hype in scientific journalism, or examples of egregious image-manipulation-fraud in prominent papers. Bu
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Attila
Jan 07, 2021 rated it really liked it
Review:
This was an interesting book about the corruption in the publication system. It was fascinating to learn about this world, how a paper gets published and what are the scientific values.
I was definitely not the target audience. It was interesting to hear about the problems and the possible solutions.
Main points:
(view spoiler)
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Ben Chugg
Aug 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
A sober analysis of the ways in which the current scientific institution incentivizes poor research practices. Useful for graduate students and the general public alike, the book catalogues the systemic flaws which result in unreliable results.

Most importantly, you will come away knowing what you always suspected: Nutritional science rests on a firm foundation of bull****.

While the book will most likely be received as an indictment of science, it should actually inspire awe and optimism. For i
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  Kerine Wint is a software engineering graduate with more love for books than for computers. As an avid reader, writer, and fan of all things...
6 likes · 4 comments
“Science, the discipline in which we should find the harshest scepticism, the most pin-sharp rationality and the hardest-headed empiricism, has become home to a dizzying array of incompetence, delusion, lies and self-deception.” 1 likes
“To give Kahneman his due, he later admitted that he’d made a mistake in overemphasising the scientific certainty of priming effects. ‘The experimental evidence for the ideas I presented in that chapter was significantly weaker than I believed when I wrote it,’ he commented six years after the publication of Thinking, Fast and Slow. ‘This was simply an error: I knew all I needed to know to moderate my enthusiasm … but I did not think it through.’14 But the damage had already been done: millions of people had been informed by a Nobel Laureate that they had ‘no choice’ but to believe in those studies.” 0 likes
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