Article

Revisiting "is the scientific paper a fraud?": The way textbooks and scientific research articles are being used to teach undergraduate students could convey a misleading image of scientific research

Citation

Howitt S & Wilson A (2014) Revisiting "is the scientific paper a fraud?": The way textbooks and scientific research articles are being used to teach undergraduate students could convey a misleading image of scientific research. EMBO Reports, 15 (5), pp. 481-484. https://doi.org/10.1002/embr.201338302

Abstract
In 1963, Peter Medawar gave a talk, Is the scientific paper a fraud?, in which he argued that scientific journal articles give a false impression of the real process of scientific discovery. In answering his question, he argued that, “The scientific paper in its orthodox form does embody a totally mistaken conception, even a travesty, of the nature of scientific thought.” His main concern was that the highly formalized structure gives only a sanitized version of how scientists come to a conclusion and that it leaves no room for authors to discuss the thought processes that led to the experiments. Medawar explained that papers were presented to appear as if the scientists had no pre-conceived expectations about the outcome and that they followed an inductive process in a logical fashion. In fact, scientists do have expectations and their observations and analysis are made in light of those expectations. Although today’s scientific papers are increasingly presented as being hypothesis-driven, the underlying thought processes remain hidden; scientists appear to follow a logical and deductive process to test their idea and the results of these tests lead them to support or reject the hypothesis. However, even the trend toward more explicit framing of a hypothesis is often misleading, as hypotheses may be framed to explain a set of observations post hoc, suggesting a linear process that does not describe the actual discovery.

Journal
EMBO Reports: Volume 15, Issue 5

StatusPublished
Publication date31/05/2014
Publication date online10/04/2014
Date accepted by journal10/12/2013
URLhttp://hdl.handle.net/1893/27024
PublisherWiley-Blackwell
ISSN1469-221X