Junk Science can be as harmful as Fake News

❝ Brian Wansink may have helped shape our country’s relationship with food. As director of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab and in roles for the US Department of Agriculture, Wansink has led headline-grabbing research on healthy eating, portion control and food psychology.

…concerns about his research came to a head last week when leading medical journals retracted six of his articles, the Journal of the American Medical Association announced…

❝ The journal’s announcement nearly doubled the number of papers he’s had retracted — now 13 — according to a database maintained by Retraction Watch, a blog that covers retractions in the scientific community…

❝ Wansink is far from the only researcher to have more than a dozen retractions. Topping Retraction Watch’s “leaderboard” are scientists with 183, 96 and 58 retractions. Wansink doesn’t even make the top 30…

❝ Although retracted articles account for far less than 1% of published papers, they can have an outsize impact.

Famously, a retracted 1998 study reported that autism was linked to childhood vaccines. It was retracted after the lead researcher, who subsequently lost his medical license, was found to have altered or misrepresented information on study participants. Still, the paper led to some parents not vaccinating their children for measles, mumps and rubella.

“Famously” in the scientific community, perhaps. A significant chunk of folks silly enough to stop vaccinating their kids used reports of that crap study to justify their suspicion of science and forbade their children the protection of vaccination. And still do.

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