Maligned Study on Gay Unions Is Shaking Trust

How do we create knowledge in the social sciences? What constitutes proof? What methods do social scientists undertake?

When we hear conclusions and findings of studies we often don’t question or think about how those conclusions were arrived at. This article about a particular study highlights some of the challenges and limitations of producing knowledge in the human sciences.

What methods are appropriate? How reproduceable are findings in the human sciences? What are the ethical limits of experimentation? How do the structures of our institutions (universities, scientific journals) promote or inhibit the production of knowledge?

“The scientific community’s system for vetting new findings, built on trust, is poorly equipped to detect deliberate misrepresentations. Faculty advisers monitor students’ work, but there are no standard guidelines governing the working relationship between senior and junior co-authors.

“The reviewers at journals may raise questions about a study’s methodology or data analysis, but rarely have access to the raw data itself, experts said. They do not have time; they are juggling the demands of their own work, and reviewing is typically unpaid.”

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