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23 - Bias and Causality in Science

from Part IV - Outlook

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 February 2021

Dashun Wang
Affiliation:
Northwestern University, Illinois
Albert-László Barabási
Affiliation:
Northeastern University, Boston
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Summary

Here we address bias and causality, beginning with the bias against failure in the existing science of science research. Because the data available to us is mostly on published papers, we necessarily disregard the role that failure plays in a scientific career. This could be framed as a surviorship bias, where the “surviving” papers are those that make it to publication. This same issue can be seen as a flaw in our current definition of impact, since our use of citation counts keeps a focus on success in the discipline. We explore the drawbacks and upsides of variants on citation counts, including altmetrics like page views. We also look at how possible ways to expand the science of science to include unobservable factors, as we saw in the case of the credibility revolution in economics. Using randomized controlled trials and natural experiments, the science of science could explore causality more deeply. Given the tension between certainty and generalizability, both experimental and observational insights are important to our understanding of how science works.

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The Science of Science , pp. 241 - 251
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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