Scientific Research Has Turned into a Safe Space
December 31, 2015
The Internet is a cold, cruel place, especially if you hang out in the comments section on YouTube, eBay forums, social media, and 4chan. If you practice restraint and limit your social media circles to trusted individuals, you can surf the Internet without encountering trolls and haters. Some people do not practice common sense, so they encounter many hateful situations on the Internet and as a result they demand “safe spaces.” Safe spaces are where people do not encounter anything negative.
Safe spaces are stupid. Period. What is disappointing is that the “safe space” and “only positive things” has made its way into the scientific community according to Nature in the article, “‘Novel, Amazing, Innovative’: Positive Words On The Rise In Science Papers.”
The University Medical Center in the Netherlands studied the use of positive and negative words in the titles of scientific papers and abstracts from 1974-2014 published on the medical database PubMed. The researchers discovered that positive words in titles grew from 2% in 1974 to 17.5% in 2014. Negative word usage increased from 1.3% to 2.4%, while neutral words did not see any change. The trend only applies to research papers, as the same test was run using published books and it showed little change.
“The most obvious interpretation of the results is that they reflect an increase in hype and exaggeration, rather than a real improvement in the incidence or quality of discoveries… The findings “fit our own observations that in order to get published, you need to emphasize what is special and unique about your study,” he says. Researchers may be tempted to make their findings stand out from thousands of others — a tendency that might also explain the more modest rise in usage of negative words.”
While there is some doubt associated with the findings, because it was only applied to PubMed. The original research team thinks that it points to much larger problem, because not all research can be “innovative” or “novel.” The positive word over usage is polluting the social, psychological, and biomedical sciences.
Under the table, this really points to how scientists and researchers are fighting for tenure. What would this mean for search engine optimization if all searches and descriptions had to have a smile? Will they even invent a safe space filter?
Whitney Grace, December 31, 2015