September 20, 2020

War On Bad Science? Or Is It A War on Preferred Bad Science?

Arnold says that now, unless he trusts a researcher’s work, he no longer believes the findings of any scientific study until he or someone on the staff carefully vets the paper. “A new study shows …” are “the four most dangerous words,” Arnold wrote on Twitter.

Together with Taubes’ work, Arnold was also reading Ioannidis’ and Gold­acre’s equally devastating analyses. These critiques of science amounted to a deep philosophical quandary for the Arnolds, philanthropists who had dedicated their lives to a data-based approach to giving. “In everything they do, they want to be evidence-driven,” says Stuart Buck, vice president of research integrity at the Arnold Foundation. But if you look at the studies that can’t be reproduced and other issues facing science, “you start to think: What is evidence? What do we actually know?”

The Arnolds had already decided that, with decades of life ahead of them and almost unlimited resources, they had the time and money to evaluate charitable programs properly, even when that meant paying for expensive randomized controlled trials that could take years to complete. But now they were widening their scope. If they wanted to embark on truly “transformational change,” as their foundation literature states, it wouldn’t be enough to properly evaluate this or that education or criminal justice program. They would also have to take on a far more ambitious project: The Arnolds would have to try and fix science itself.<<<Read More>>>