In the authorship unit, the class discussed many issues relating to authorship, from how simplified ideas of the scientific method influence the public and authors, to how pharmaceutical companies influence what is published, and under whose name, through the practice of publication planning and ghost authorship.
As discussed by Seethaler (2009), the idea that there is one universal scientific method is ubiquitous, but it is extremely oversimplified. This creates several misconceptions in the public eye, which Seethaler discusses.
First and foremost, the scientific method model makes science seem straightforward and simple. This influences publication in several ways. First, it encourages authors not to publish experiments where the hypothesis doesn’t match their results, as the public might not perceive this as real science. This could lead other scientists to inadvertently duplicate their non-productive experiments, which is of course a waste of resources. On the other hand, because the model portrays science as infallible, it obscures the need for duplication of studies where the hypothesis and results do “match”, in order to confirm the results.
This lack of duplication has other roots, though. There is an impetus on researchers to conduct original experiments, which comes from several sources. First, there is the authors desire for personal prestige. If they are able to be the first to publish a discovery in their field, they will gain prestige. There is little prestige to be found in redoing the experiments of others, at least as scientific fields are currently organized. A second reason there is little duplication to be found in science is the desire of publications for prestige. Publications also want to be the first to publish new discoveries because they gain status by doing so. They are more likely accept papers about original research than about replications of other research. Authors know this, so this makes them even more likely to select original experiments rather than replication for their personal projects. The desire for prestige is certainly a strong motivator, but there is another motivator that is even stronger. That is the desire for funding. Organizations that award funds to research proposals are far more likely to give money to researchers who have proposed an original experiment rather than a replication of another experiment. Together, these factors work from within scientific communities to limit replication of scientific knowledge. Then, the ubiquity of the simplified model of the scientific method eliminates the expectation for replication of science in the public.
A near-absence of replication in science, and an emphasis on original results could have many implications. First, it could let pharmaceutical companies alter the balance of information about a drug, because there is no one to question the validity of their publication. It also allows authors to obscure decisions and minor problems, because they can expect that their experiments will never be replicated, and therefore will never be questioned.
From this it is clear that the current way of conceptualizing scientific research based on the simplified scientific method model has many problems. Thus, the question becomes, how do we move away from the simple model of the scientific method in public discourse?