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This chapter addresses how stakeholders of scientific research can assess whether research is compliant with the scientific method and then promote useful scientific research to improve products, services, processes, methods, and decision-making. We address stakeholders in sections for universities, scientific journals, governments, regulators and courts, and media and interested individuals.
The invitation for those nominating candidates for the Nobel Prize in economics, the “Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel,” described the award of the prize as being “based solely on scientific merit.” No criteria for judging scientific merit were provided, but nominators were directed to “consider origin and gender” of the nominees. Without clear criteria for the award, to what extent can one be confident that the prize was based on the scientific merit of the findings?
Gerd Gigerenzer, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, commented on reading papers in the Journal of Experimental Psychology from the 1920s and 1930s. He observed that “This was professionally a most depressing experience, but not because these articles were methodologically mediocre. On the contrary, many of them make today’s research pale in comparison with their diversity of methods and statistics” (Gigerenzer, 2000, p. 296).
We believe that the primary role of a scientist is to make discoveries that can help to improve peoples’ lives, whether directly such as through the discovery of a vaccine against a disease or indirectly such as through the invention of a procedure that can improve efficiency or lead to better decisions. In this chapter, we provide practical advice on how to identify important problems, how to choose which important problems to research, how to design a study, how to collect data, and how to analyze them.
We intend that our checklist provides a common understanding among all stakeholders in science of what the scientific method entails. To that end, we describe it in terms that are simple and commonly understood.
The discovery of useful scientific knowledge depends primarily on the scientist. A scientist’s research can be greatly aided by research assistants, advisors, reviewers, journals, and all those fostering a creative environment. Nevertheless, we believe that the primary responsibility for conducting useful scientific research usually falls on individual scientists, sometimes two scientists, but rarely more than two.
The scientific method is largely responsible for improving life expectancies and the quality of life over the past 2000 years. Individual scientists, in their efforts to discover how things work and how to make them better have used the method on their own or in collaboration with others to make the world a better place.
In this chapter, we are concerned with how to inform those who could use your findings. There is little point in doing useful scientific research if potential users of the findings are not aware of them, or if they cannot understand the findings or how to use them.
Researchers who have been applying the scientific method to important problems for over 20 centuries are responsible for saving lives and improving our quality of life. Their efforts have provided us with the comforts and the myriad of opportunities that we have to live fulfilling lives that could barely be imagined in earlier times.
In this chapter, we raise making a useful contribution as a motive for university researchers, discuss some of the recent history of government involvement in science, and examine the evidence on whether or not government funding and regulation of research is beneficial.
Publishing important and useful papers has been a fulfilling role for the founding editors of journals, and scientists were thankful to be able to publish research on topics that they regarded as important. The process seemed to work well for centuries.