Where are the self-correcting mechanisms in science?


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Dr. Elise Kalokerinos


We often hear the self-correcting mechanisms in science invoked as a reason to trust science, but it is not always clear what these mechanisms are.  Some quality control mechanisms, such as peer review for journals, or vetting for textbooks or for public dissemination, have recently been found not to provide much of a safeguard against invalid claims.  Instead, I argue that we should look for visible signs of a scientific community's commitment to self-correction.  These signs include transparency in the research and peer review process, investment in error detection and quality control, and an emphasis on calibration rather than popularisation.  We should trust scientific claims more to the extent that they were produced by communities that have these hallmarks of credibility.  Fields that are more transparent, rigorous, and calibrated should earn more trust.  Meta-science can provide scientists and the public with valuable information in assessing the credibility of scientific fields.

Speaker bio

Simine Vazire is a Professor at the Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences in the Ethics and Wellbeing Hub.  One line of her research examines people's self-knowledge of their personality and behavior.  Another line of research examines the individual and institutional practices and norms in science, and the degree to which these norms encourage or impede self-correction and credibility.  She is Editor in Chief of Collabra: Psychology and has served as an editor at several other journals.  She is a board member of the Public Library Of Science and the Berkeley Institute for Transparency in the Social Sciences, was a member of the US National Academy of Science study committee on replicability and reproducibility, and co-founded the Society for the Improvement of Psychological Science (SIPS).