John Oliver sets the record straight

John Oliver's big enough to admit when he's wrong. He's so damn large, in fact, that he sat down behind his gigantic desk just to post this series of retractions to YouTube.

Thank you, Kaiju John Oliver, for taking your giant time to make these giant corrections. We, the small people of the earth, salute you. Read the rest

Yale rescinds Bill Cosby's honorary degree

Actor, comedian and rapist Bill Cosby lost the honorary degree Yale University bestowed upon him after a vote Tuesday by its Board of Trustees.

From its statement:

"Today the Yale University board of trustees voted to rescind the honorary degree awarded to William H. Cosby, Jr. in 2003. The decision is based on a court record providing clear and convincing evidence of conduct that violates fundamental standards of decency shared by all members of the Yale community, conduct that was unknown to the board at the time the degree was awarded. The board took this decision following Mr. Cosby’s criminal conviction after he was afforded due process. Yale is committed to both the elimination of sexual misconduct and the adherence to due process. We reaffirm that commitment with our action today."

The University of Connecticut did likewise in 2016; Wesleyan is expected to follow suit in May.

Cosby drugged and raped Andrea Constand in 2004 and was convicted on three counts of aggravated assault last week. He is yet to be sentenced, but effectively faces life in prison. Read the rest

Scientific retraction leads millions of testicles to retract into ribcages

From Retraction Watch: The Indian Journal of Surgery has retracted a 2011 paper entitled "Penile Strangulation by Metallic Rings". The reason: The authors apparently self-plagiarized the report from an earlier 2005 paper. Please insert your own jokes here. Read the rest

Fraud, failure, and FUBAR in science

Here's an issue we don't talk about enough. Every year, peer-reviewed research journals publish hundreds of thousands of scientific papers. But every year, several hundred of those are retracted — essentially, unpublished. There's a number of reasons retraction happens. Sometimes, the researchers (or another group of scientists) will notice honest mistakes. Sometimes, other people will prove that the paper's results were totally wrong. And sometimes, scientists misbehave, plagiarizing their own work, plagiarizing others, or engaging in outright fraud. Officially, fraud only accounts for a small proportion of all retractions. But the number of annual retractions is growing, fast. And there's good reason to think that fraud plays a bigger role in science then we like to think. In fact, a study published a couple of weeks ago found that there was misconduct happening in 3/4ths of all retracted papers. Meanwhile, previous research has shown that, while only about .02% of all papers are retracted, 1-2% of scientists admit to having invented, fudged, or manipulated data at least once in their careers.

The trouble is that dealing with this isn't as simple as uncovering a shadowy conspiracy or two. That's not really the kind of misconduct we're talking about here. Read the rest