The other day while taking some light-hearted gabs about the Conspiracy Meow! site, I thought it best to defend my passion project publicly by explaining that although this site is satirical and entertainment-based, it is also straight forward in its presentation of information. This could not be said of some of the more reputable media outlets or even some seemingly reliable information sources. Compromised information has become a societal plague and Conspiracy Meow! is here to drop some dimes on the basis of misinformation, that being academic studies that publish falsified or erroneous results knowingly. Let's unpack why and how this is happening and what it means to you.
To start with where it all goes wrong we have to look at how academia works. In order to obtain a Ph.D., a student must be able to create a polished dissertation and submit it. This dissertation requires an amount of data from a study to be considered valid usually. The problem is that when the results of a study back up the data it is far easier to report rather than to have to explain why the hypothesis didn't pan out or why the project was scrapped due to it being too flawed. Also, there is the issue of pride that gets a firm petting when a study can prove the person who wrote it right. All in all, it totals to a push to fib the project and results from the get-go.
The problem doesn't stop at dissertations either. Many academic community members are too focused on personal agendas for gain or prestige to be objective. Plus, there are few outsiders to the academic community who are checking on the already published studies enough as it is. When information is too one-sided the results suffer. Some of these studies are out to prove a point, not to verify facts, i.e. the semen nutritional studies are all pro swallowing and little has been reported regarding the cons.
This all opens the door for study results to be faked for various reasons, including career advancement, to prove themself right or for fear of the findings being contrary to what was hypothesized being too different. The example of the now-infamous Stanford Prison Experiment has been revealed to have exaggerated results. The hype that the study received helped to set the school apart and make those who participated in it their microcelebrities. The truth is that most studies are dull and have dull results. Ergonomic plastic furniture and the impacts on orthopedic health is probably not going to be on the cover of the New York Times any time soon. So yes, academic integrity falls away in order for sensationalism to steal the spotlight at times too.
To address this unsettling finding and to hopefully end conflicting news reports on if a glass of wine at dinner time is or is not good for your heart, we have to once again harp on the importance of independent third party auditing. There is also the tedious nature of reworking already published studies to ensure validity. This could be accomplished by requiring every grad student to participate in recreating an academic study that another school has published. In doing so, the college would not be biased and the students would not be personally affected if the original results were disproven. Eventually, this concept would have to be reconfigured because all integrity checks need to be revamped periodically to handle the adaptive nature of the dishonest, but it's a start.
The conclusion is simple; the world can not assume that bias and self-promotion are removed from any facet of life including scholarly studies. To ensure accurate results in information reporting, it is imperative to treat all things with an assumption of an error on the part of all parties is possible, whether unintentional or otherwise. In the meanwhile, though I hope that at least some of the already published studies are being reviewed, even the ones that are considered scientific staples, that way nothing is ever held above scrutiny. What do you think? Leave your own theory on this topic in the Conspiracy Meow! site forums to add your own point of view on the matter.