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How to read and understand a scientific paper: a guide for non-scientists « Violent metaphors

How to read and understand a scientific paper: a guide for non-scientists « Violent metaphors
Update (8/30/14): I’ve written a shorter version of this guide for teachers to hand out to their classes. If you’d like a PDF, shoot me an email: jenniferraff (at) utexas (dot) edu. Last week’s post (The truth about vaccinations: Your physician knows more than the University of Google) sparked a very lively discussion, with comments from several people trying to persuade me (and the other readers) that their paper disproved everything that I’d been saying. While I encourage you to go read the comments and contribute your own, here I want to focus on the much larger issue that this debate raised: what constitutes scientific authority? It’s not just a fun academic problem. Getting the science wrong has very real consequences. “Be skeptical. What constitutes enough proof? I want to help people become more scientifically literate, so I wrote this guide for how a layperson can approach reading and understanding a scientific research paper. 1. 2. 3. Here are some questions to guide you: 4. 5.

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Replication Effort Provokes Praise—And 'Bullying' Charges After a string of scandals involving accusations of misconduct and retracted papers, social psychology is engaged in intense self-examination—and the process is turning out to be painful. This week, a global network of nearly 100 researchers unveiled the results of an effort to replicate 27 well-known studies in the field. In more than half of the cases, the result was a partial or complete failure. As the replicators see it, the failed do-overs are a healthy corrective. “Replication helps us make sure what we think is true really is true,” says Brent Donnellan, a psychologist at Michigan State University in East Lansing who has undertaken three recent replications of studies from other groups—all of which came out negative. “We are moving forward as a science,” he says.

Using TED-Ed to Create Mini Lessons What is TED-Ed? Did you know you can now create mini lessons on TED-Ed? 1: Pick a video 1. Visit 2. Search for any video on YouTube, or simply paste the video’s YouTube link (listed or unlisted) into the search bar. 3. Ukip founder Alan Sked: 'The party has become a Frankenstein's monster' The founder of Ukip is trying to prove to me that, when he was in charge, the party wasn't racist. He's also trying to demonstrate that his Ukip wouldn't have had its snout in the European parliament's expenses trough, unlike its 2014 incarnation. "I had one here not so long ago," says Alan Sked, professor of international history at the London School of Economics, as he searches for a membership application form as evidence. It's a tough task: his office, the LSE's Room E503, is a stranger to the declutterer's art – it's not so much overwhelmed with books and papers as booby-trapped by them. Room E503 is historically significant for modern British politics.

Sun Tzu If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles... if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle. Sun Tzu 孫子; Sūn Zǐ; (c. 6th century BCE) was a Chinese general, military strategist, and author of The Art of War, an immensely influential ancient Chinese book on military strategy; also known as Sun Wu (孫武; Sūn Wǔ), and Chang Qing (長卿; Cháng Qīng). The Art of War[edit] Quotations from translations of the book The Art of War (6th century BC)

How Real-Life Science Influenced Guardians of the Galaxy Marvel Studios Of all the people who are partially responsible for Friday’s much-anticipated Marvel movie Guardians of the Galaxy—studio head Kevin Feige, co-stars Chris Pratt and Zoe Saldana, Jack Kirby and Jim Starlin for pioneering Marvel’s “cosmic” stories—the most surprising one might be scientist Richard Feynman. Not that the celebrated physicist known for his work in the fields of quantum mechanics and nanotechnology contributed directly to the movie in any way (having died in 1988, that would’ve been unlikely), but without Feynman, GotG screenwriter Nicole Perlman might never have gotten involved in writing in the first place. “Science was my gateway drug,” Perlman says, “so I tried to see if I could apply my interest in science stories to actual science—and discovered that the nitty gritty is a lot less exciting than the stories.” Nicole Perlman. Ben Rasmussen/WIRED

How to Criticize with Kindness: Philosopher Daniel Dennett on the Four Steps to Arguing Intelligently By Maria Popova “In disputes upon moral or scientific points,” Arthur Martine counseled in his magnificent 1866 guide to the art of conversation, “let your aim be to come at truth, not to conquer your opponent. So you never shall be at a loss in losing the argument, and gaining a new discovery.” Of course, this isn’t what happens most of the time when we argue, both online and off, but especially when we deploy the artillery of our righteousness from behind the comfortable shield of the keyboard.

Dear parents, you are being lied to. Note: The content of this article was written by Dr. Jennifer Raff for her blog, Violent Metaphors. It is being rehosted here with permission. You can click on the above hyperlink to view the original and engage in the lively discussion in the comments section. What Scientists Really Do by Priyamvada Natarajan Curiosity: How Science Became Interested in Everything by Philip Ball University of Chicago Press, 465 pp., $35.00

Policy: Twenty tips for interpreting scientific claims Science and policy have collided on contentious issues such as bee declines, nuclear power and the role of badgers in bovine tuberculosis. Calls for the closer integration of science in political decision-making have been commonplace for decades. However, there are serious problems in the application of science to policy — from energy to health and environment to education. One suggestion to improve matters is to encourage more scientists to get involved in politics. Although laudable, it is unrealistic to expect substantially increased political involvement from scientists. Another proposal is to expand the role of chief scientific advisers1, increasing their number, availability and participation in political processes.

Dementia Facebook app to raise awareness of the illness 28 April 2014Last updated at 19:32 ET Facebook users are being invited to experience what it is like to live with dementia in a bid to raise greater awareness about the disease. The FaceDementia app, by Alzheimer's Research UK, "takes over" personal Facebook pages, and temporarily erases important memories, mimicking how dementia affects the brain. Users can watch their personal photos, important details and status updates disappear before their eyes. Their real page remains intact.

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