“Fake News” isn’t going far enough

The problem with the idea of “fake news” is that it gives us this idea that it’s a simple fix–stop reporting wrong facts–instead of something much deeper. And yet, people (publications especially), like to pat themselves on the back because they’re not “the other guys:”

Science in its current state isn’t exactly keeping us safe from bogus research. Predatory publishers continue to churn out papers for a price, with minimal peer review — or very often no peer review — to vet the results. Unscrupulous researchers use those and other soft spots in the scientific publishing system to get away with presenting wild theories or cooking their data.

However, pointing out those lying liars who lie over there (who are far, far away from me, donchaknow) doesn’t change the fact that some problems are systemic in the system. “Science” has to perpetuate itself–if you don’t impress the grantor, you don’t get the grant. If you don’t follow the spoken and unspoken rules of your peer community, you don’t get good peer reviews. There is a lot of reinforcement of specific beliefs and views that happens with every published paper.
There are lies, or falsified data, or whatever–and then there is the context for those lies. And even if you’re reporting truth, if it’s in a false context, it’s false.
That is the hard part of veering out of the box and starting to look at problems for yourself; you have to understand the context of the research or article you’re looking at, and it can be difficult to discern truth when you’re new to the neighborhood.
Still, it’s worth doing.

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