howzit at io.org (Ursula Keuper-Bennett) writes:
> [ . . . ] I figure if scientific work is "90% perspiration and
> 10% inspiration" then it can't be biased in its outlook and
> reflect the political mood of the time, right?
> I mean to some extent a researcher is affected by his time (if
> nothing else limited to the present knowledge of his discipline)
> no matter what -- but the best try and be aware of it.
> So here is my question. A paper that is "biased" and/or
> "reflects the political mood of the time" must have been written
> by a researcher who was doing more inspirating than
> Ignoring the poor grammar, is that a decent conclusion?
Every paper reflects, perhaps not the political, but at least the
theoretical mood of the time. A standard scientific paper consists of
four sections: Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion.
Roughly speaking, the Methods and Results are the perspiration parts,
and take 90% of the work, whereas the Introduction and Discussion are
the inspiration parts, and take 10% of the work. (Your mileage may
vary.) To a considerable degree these two parts are independent. It
is entirely possible for a paper to present perfectly valid data and
then draw absolutely baseless conclusions from it -- in fact, the
cynical among us might say that it happens most of the time.
Bottom line: bias is not all-or-nothing, and every scientific paper
contains at least a little bit of it. Fortunately, most papers that
are based on nothing more than bias fail to get published (in the hard
sciences, at least).