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Why We May Not Always Write About The Right Stuff


Welcome to the Science and Society Program at Duke’s new blog! We’re so excited you’ve found your way to our brand new website, and hope you’ll keep it in mind to stay updated on how current science is influencing society. Part of this blog’s mission is to be not only a news feed of pertinent science news for you, but also an accurate reflection of what stories you think are most important and relevant. With that in mind, it seems like a relevant place to launch the blog is with a disclaimer of sorts.

A recent study performed by Adam Eyre-Walker and Nina Stoletzki of University of Sussex in the U.K. examined 716 papers from the Wellcome Trust and another 5,811 papers from Faculty of 1000, a peer reviewed website fostering scientific discussions, to see if a paper’s intrinsic merit as an important publication matched up with scientists’ perceived importance of that paper. In a finding that should surprise few of us whom have ever had to dive into the scientific literature surrounding a problem of interest, it was found that subjective assessments of papers was poor; there was little correlation in impact factor between papers given similar objective merit scores. In assessing which papers were more likely to be overrated, this study found scientists were often more biased towards papers in higher-ranking journals. I think we can all relate to seeing Nature or NEJM next to a paper and unconsciously assuming it presented the scientific problem at hand relatively accurately and comprehensively.

All of this is a long way of saying, we will make every effort to scour all the existing scientific journals for articles that may be of interest to you, and try to eliminate some of our biases in assessing the validity of a paper as blog-worthy. In return, we encourage you to be active participants in our community. Send us articles you think are relevant or we are overlooking, comment on our blogs with your own opinion of the subject, and share this blog with friends and colleagues so we have as many different viewpoints composing our publications about that broad term society as possible! We look forward to having you as our reader (Hint: Creating a bookmark is a great way not to forget about us.)