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Thursday, September 14, 2006

I Have a Dream

I have a fantasy where I win the lottery for 150 million bucks. That's enough for my little dream job to take place. I start a science journal. Only this one comes equiped with a laboratory. That's why I need 150 million dollars. I'm not messing around here. What the journal does is accept papers that we think are falsifiable. In addition to being falsifiable, the consequences of either true or false outcomes are of no matter to us. What matters is where the truth lies.

Like Feynman said in Cargo Cult Science, "If you've made up your mind to test a theory, or you want to explain some idea, you should always decide to publish it whichever way it comes out. If we only publish results of a certain kind, we can make the argument look good. We must publish BOTH kinds of results. "

The trick of this new science journal is to have no conflicts of interest in either outcome. We must publish the results and base our reputation on how many things we get right. Unlike the modern day journals who rely on peer review, we will rely on that lab that is a part of the journal. Peer review is an unscientific method. This journal would be the first of it's kind. It's purpose would be to shame the major journals into returning to a more scientific method of reporting science. Here is how we will deviate from the status quo.

When a paper is recieved it will be reviewed for falsifiable conclusions. The methods that are reported will be written up for experimentation within our lab. If someone reports a western blot of a hamster brain for example, we will get the brain material and every other material used in the western and we will run the very same gel. Only the falsifiable experiments will count towards the final review. Once the experiments have been repeated the review will begin. In the journal you will first read the paper that is under the gun. Next there will be 3 separate reviews. Each review will go over the data obtained from repeating the experiments. They will break down the conclusions and discuss how their data was interpreted with relation to the original author. The final review will be purely philisophical. Was the experimental design Cargo Cult or was it good science? Were the methods hard science or soft? Was there ample room for statistics to come into play? In essance we will be testing the tests and analysing the analysis. In the end we will simplify the conclusions down to the shortest explanation of their significance.

We will seek out the simplicity of things. It's easy to make complicated arguements that others find too cumbersome to question. We will seek out the simplest of questions that most people think have been fully answered. What is a protein. Can we measure it? Can we measure gene expression? What are the micro-environments inside a cell and how do they regulate gene expression. There are so many questions to answer. The dream I have of this journal is to take on basic questions, slowly and methodically, and to get to the best possible answer we can get to. We will never be able to know the whole truth. Again, quoting Feynman, "We can't define anything precisely. If we attempt to, we get into that paralysis of thought that comes to philosophers… one saying to the other: "you don't know what you are talking about!". The second one says: "what do you mean by talking? What do you mean by you? What do you mean by know?" But we can get as close to it as is humanly possible. The most important aspect of the process will be to take our hopes and dreams out of the picture. There must be no conflicts of interest. No egos to shatter. No careers to worry about. The only thing that matters will be the truth.

1 comment:

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