Saturday, October 16, 2010

To Infinity and Beyond

As regards to the work of John Ioannidis and his colleagues, I have little doubt that it is accurate and revealing, but I remain far less optimistic about where this trend will lead. If our best researchers are now pouring their best efforts into analyzing the methodologies of our worst researchers, then who, might I ask, is actually attending to the science?

And think about what is bound to happen next. Meta-research, now widely regarded as successful and informative, will soon blossom into a distinctive and popular field of its own. How long before the launch of the new and prestigious journals Meta-Science and Meta-Nature? (Might I suggest the latter begin with a thousand-author study on the exponentially increasing trend of co-authorship within the pages of Nature.) Perhaps a Scandinavian committee of committees can begin awarding meta-Nobels for outstanding research into the increasingly trivial results of Nobel prize winners (a surprisingly fertile domain).

But of course as this new field becomes ever more popular and draws in more and more practitioners, the day inevitably comes when the majority of meta-scientists begin doing shoddy work as well, and then how much longer before some enterprising young team, with apparently nothing better to do, begins meta-analyzing the meta-analysis—and so on, to infinity and beyond.

Does anyone remember why humanity turned to science to begin with? I very much doubt it was so that we could learn more about science itself. When the carpenter becomes obsessed with his tools, he forgets to build the house.

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