Three easy rules for spotting junk science

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Here are three rather solid ways to tell if you are looking at junk science, which will hold *99.9999999% of the time.

1. The study was carried out over a decade before it got published. This means one thing: the work has been rejected by more reputable journals than you can shake a fist at.

2. Almost every peer reviewed study referenced by the paper was published over a decade ago. This means one thing: the author is ignoring all of the later studies that contradict those he is citing.

3. The paper is published in a predatory open access journal. This means one thing: the study received minimal peer review in exchange for cash payment from the study’s authors.

Simple and effective rules, you will agree. Now, apply them to this research by that old crank and crook Chris Busby, written up by Busby himself on the Ecologist website.

In summary:

1. The study, which apparently shows that breast cancer occurrence is much greater near nuclear power plants, was carried out in 2003, but only just published in a “peer reviewed”  journal.

2. The study has 25 references. Only one of these references was published after 2000 in a supposedly peer reviewed journal.

3. The study was published in a journal with the Jacobs Publishers imprint, a well known predatory journal.

So, absolute dyed in the wool junk. And published in the Ecologist, which appears to just get crazier and crazier by the day.

*This is probably an under-estimate of the effectiveness of the rules.


4 thoughts on “Three easy rules for spotting junk science

    Arthur said:
    May 18, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    Great tips. Science publishing is just getting worse and worse, and slow on the uptake of online/interactive comment/review, linking/directly sending you to relevant section of references/citations, etc…

    By the way, your blog site is missing a “Search” function – I wanted to re-read something and think this feature would be useful to others too.


      Robert Wilson said:
      May 18, 2015 at 7:09 pm

      I hadn’t noticed that I forgot to add it when I changed the theme. It’s now available.


    Sam Taylor said:
    May 19, 2015 at 8:07 am

    Is there a decent list anywhere of disreputable journals? It would be useful in sorting wheat from chaff, which seems to be an increasingly common issue in the energy research sphere.


    Cold Air said:
    May 19, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    Reblogged this on Colder Air and commented:
    Good tips on identifying junk papers.


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