Times have changed: dealing with dodgy science in the internet age

Dodgy science, dodgy scientists and dodgy humans are not a new thing. And dodgy scientific papers have been published since the dawn of scientific publishing. In 1667 an article on ‘snakestones’, a pseudoscience medical cure with absolutely no basis in truth, appeared in one of the first issues of the oldest known scientific journal, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (now Phil Trans A, one of the most prestigious modern scientific journals).

Since then, disreputable papers have made regular appearances in reputable journals. And there are different scales of disreputable. The paper claiming that octopi originated from outer space was clearly far-fetched, while the scholars who recently argued there was a ‘moral panic’ over free-ranging cats simply highlighted how interdisciplinary research is often challenged by opposing methodological approaches (note: I agree with most ecologists that free-ranging cats are not good for wild animals, including insects). Continue reading

Re-thinking science education

Following the publishing of an edited version of What’s Science Mummy? on The Conversation, I was invited to submit a related short piece to the ACEL Online (Australian Council for Educational Leadership) newsletter. You can view the front page here, but full access is restricted for non-members. I have printed the article below – thank you to ACEL Online for publishing this.


Australia is lagging behind the rest of the world with science education, and this is becoming more apparent as disagreement over enviro/scientific issues increases in the public domain. A recent poll highlighted how Australians are interested in science, but don’t feel well-informed about it. This is despite the marketing/education projects many organisations deliver in an attempt to increase the public’s knowledge of scientific issues. One of the reasons these kinds of projects may not have the desired effect is that they are mostly available post-education, when many people have already formed personal interests and beliefs and values systems. Continue reading