Showing posts with label scientific research. Show all posts
Showing posts with label scientific research. Show all posts

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Spam Papers Make their Way into Academic Journals

Great research and strong academic papers often get rejected from journals because they do not fit the editor’s interests or are not from the right credentials in terms of university affiliation or brand of degree. When good papers are rejected and gibberish papers make their way through the system into public consumption that is even more concerning. A computer scientist by the name of Cyril LabbĂ© ran a program to detect spam SCIgen papers in academic journals and found 100 published between 2008 and 2013 by the Electrical and Electronic Engineers and Springer(1). 

The purpose of SCIgen is to publish spam papers and send them to conferences to determine whether they are bogus (2). In this case their papers were in many different locations indicating that some of the conferences and publications were accepting papers that they were not readable and had no contribution. The editor process was lacking and papers were accepted wholesale without a review. 

Journals should be selective in what they accept but should also accept papers with important content regardless of university affiliation. They should not accept gibberish papers that were not vetted, edited, or reviewed. This diminishes the quality of the journal, its scientific contribution to society, and damages the institution of scientific publication. 

In traditional journals candidates submit scientific papers for inclusion. The cost is shouldered by the publisher because they have a significant readership and advertisement base to cover the expenditures. They are highly selective and follow a model that you may find similar to the book publishing industry. Only the best papers make their way into the journals. 

A problem is the definition of what the best papers are. Are these the ones with the most scientific impact or greatest societal benefit? In some cases yes and in others no. Often these publishers only accept papers from heavy research institutes that have a history of research. New ideas outside of those institutions are discounted and often rejected based on perception and not necessarily quality. This leaves them as gatekeepers to public knowledge. 

An alternative way to publish is through journals that require authors to pay a few hundred dollars for inclusion. This may exist because the publication is not widely read, it is part of their business model, and/or it provides those from less esteemed universities to publish works. However, when such journals don’t check the publication at all they are simply working on their business model for the money and add little scientific value. 

Whether a journal is traditional or non-traditional the quality should be maintained. That quality should depend on the objectives of the journal and their approaches to obtaining readership. The quality of the journal is based on the quality of the papers they accept. That doesn’t mean they should be exclusive to certain universities but should be open to high quality papers from a variety of backgrounds. Both traditional and non-traditional journals will need review their editorial process to focus on readership growth through quality work.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Book Review: An introduction to Scientific Research by E. Bright Wilson

An introduction to Scientific Research by E. Bright Wilson gives an overview of the modern scientific method. The book focuses more on experimental laboratories, useful formulas, and commonly used instruments than on social research. The book seeks to collect in one place the general principles, techniques, and guides for proper procedures. It is a necessary read for those interested in conducting hard-core research.

The book is written through the eyes of a physical chemist and this helps to explain its detailed and hard scientific approach. The concepts offered in the book are valid and it is worth reading even if one is not working in a physical laboratory. It will provide an understanding for graduate students that may work in biology, medicine or other physical sciences. 

It also provides a strong overview of pure science and some of the issues it faces. It moves into other concepts such as cost, morality, scientific literature, observation, cause and effect, hypothesis, deduction, models, mathematics and the very process of designing experiments. Likewise, one will find apparatus design, sampling, analysis, and general errors. 

You may be interested in the chapter on the analysis of experimental data. The interpretation of data is a critical step in the experimental process. If done poorly the wrong conclusions are realized and improper scientific discoveries found. The facts are not always facts. When considering all of the data it may be necessary to go back and ensure the information drawn is accurate and not a result of extraneous variables outside of the study. 

Generally, once the hypothesis is proposed the researcher will design an experiment to test it in a systematic way. This can create a psychological effect whereby one is attempting to validate something they already believe in drawing likeminded conclusions without thinking about the alternatives. It is necessary to review all possible explanations to create the highest level of critical thinking and accuracy. 

It is important to remember that validity comes through the testing of concepts in other places and times. Researchers will attempt to find the same conclusions by either running the same or similar research. The more times researchers come to the same conclusions, the stronger the validity of the study. Science is a social affair that works within a body of knowledge.

Wilson, E. (1990). An introduction to Scientific Research. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Book Review: Research Methods by Nicolas Walliman

Research Methods The Basics by Nicholas Walliman packs a lot of information into a 190 page little book. The information is easy to understand and provides a strong theoretical understanding of the different types of research available and its methods. Research is a term that helps to describe any type of investigation that is intended to uncover facts. The quality of the results often determines the quality of the research itself. Research methods are tools that are used to help better analyze and separate the facts from confounded fiction. 

Within the book you will find information on research theory and practice and the main research methods. The book will provide some information on the basics and then move into ethics, structure, literature, data, analysis of secondary data, quantitative and qualitative methods, and writing the following proposal. It is a strong book for those who desire to understand a basic overview before moving into specifics. 

The scientific method is considered the hypothetico-deductive reasoning method that is a process of:

-identification or clarification of a problem.
-developing a hypothesis or testable theory inductively from the observations
-charting their implications by deduction
-Practical or theoretical testing of the hypothesis
-rejecting or refining it in the light of the results.

The overall processes are one where a problem is defined and then explored to determine a theory. That theory is then tested to ensure that it consistently explains the problem. Over time validity is gained through multiple observations from multiple people. The end result is that the overall theory has been viewed by a number of people over a number of different lenses and becomes the winning theory over the alternatives. 

The scientific method also has a number of underlining assumptions:

-Order: The universe is an ordered system that can be investigated.
-External Reality: We all share a similar sense of physical reality that can be tested. This may not apply to subjective reality.
-Reliability:  We use our senses and reasoning to reliably determine facts.
-Parsimony: The simpler the explanation...the better.
-Generality: Rules found can be applied to similar situations regardless of time and space. 

All science deals with the concept of order vs. chaos, the nature of reality, sensing and reasoning, explanation, and time and space. The book doesn’t go deeply into this concept but if you think back to the original philosophers of this world modern scientific thought is based upon their philosophical understandings. It is the nature of scientists to discuss reality, causation, time-space, and philosophy to create mental lenses by which they see the world and empirically test its validity. 

Walliman, N. (2011). Research Methods The Basics. Routledge; NY. ISBN: 978-0-415-48991-1