Gina Kolata is a kindred spirit who has written a series for the New York Times called “The Science of Fat.” She is a science journalist with degrees in molecular biology and mathematics. The difference between Gina Kolata at The New York Times and me with “Fat Science” at the Portsmouth Daily Times… well the differences are multiple and abundantly obvious. All good though.
Fake news is a big topic of today’s political scene and Gina Kolata recently wrote a report on the difficulties inherent in this business we share of ferreting out fake science.(1) A ferret is a weaselly animal that can get into the burrows of rabbits and rats and ferret them out.
The internet is to blame as it provides “open access” and free information. Just as the internet has disrupted the “main street” press and traditional news agencies, it has likewise disrupted scientific reporting and science journalism. Apparently there are just as many open access scientific journals on the internet where scientists, or maybe just anybody, can pay to get a scientific paper accepted, as there are traditional established journals who peer review what gets published. The old way costs money and time and it’s hard. There are still plenty of mistakes made in this tried and true method of getting to the truth. The new way is way worse.
Sometimes these online “free” journals are seen as predatory because they are taking advantage of innocent scientists. But, Ms Kolata has learned, “predation is only a small part of the story. Many — probably most — academics who publish in these journals know exactly what they are doing.”
What Gina Kolata can do is “keep an extensive and ever growing list of researchers who are knowledgeable, honest, and tuned in to the latest research and its implications. If a paper looks interesting I will call on one or two of them and ask: ‘Is the work credible? Does it advance the field? Are there caveats I should know about?’”
Another thing she does, and me too because I don’t have a bevy of experts who will take my calls, is stick to prestigious and standard old fashioned scientific journals. That’s already plenty enough information overload for any ten people.
Sometimes when something is free it’s worth exactly what you paid for it.
John DiTraglia M.D. is a Pediatrician in Portsmouth. He can be reached by e-mail- firstname.lastname@example.org or phone-354-6605.
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