Data torturing

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Data torturing is an abuse of scientific research by the methodological flaw expressed by saying "Torture the data, and it will confess to anything." It is an attempt to manipulate the data in order to confirm the wishful thinking of the author and reach an a priori wanted result of the research. For example, a trial can be deliberately rigged to give the right answer to its sponsors. One systematic review performed in 2003 discovered that studies funded by a pharmaceutical company were found to be four times more likely to give results that were favourable to the company than independent studies.[1] [2] Data torturing is often associated with computer simulations.

Examples

COBE project

It has been claimed by NASA contractor that in COBE (Cosmic Background Explorer satellite) project, the sensitivity limits of one part in about 30,000 were "increased" to one part in 100,000 by means of data torturing. The data had to be ‘massaged’ through computer enhancement. The work was done at the University of California at Los Angeles, Berkeley, and Santa Barbara by researchers George Smoot, Charles Bennett, Edward Wright and Alan Kogut. With computer enhancement it is a prerequisite to know what is being searched for, which means that the data analyst brings a pronounced personal bias to the procedure. The discovery of anisotropy of one part in 100,000 is questionable to anyone who knows how the original data was processed and who is objective about cosmos origin theories.[3]

See also

References

  1. Ben Goldacre (2008). Bad Science. HarperCollins, 228. ISBN 978-00072-83194. 
  2. James L. Mills (October 14, 1993). "Data Torturing". N Engl J Med (329): 1196–1199. doi:10.1056/NEJM199310143291613. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199310143291613. Retrieved 5 July 2015. "“If you torture your data long enough, they will tell you whatever you want to hear” has become a popular observation in our office. In plain English, this means that study data, if manipulated in enough different ways, can be made to prove whatever the investigator wants to prove. Unfortunately, this is generally true. Because every investigator wants to present results in the most exciting way, we all look for the most dramatic, positive findings in our data. When this process goes beyond reasonable interpretation of the facts, it becomes data torturing.". 
  3. Robin Rushing (1995). "Cobe dating (Letters)". CEN Tech. J. 9 (2): 165. http://creation.com/images/pdfs/tj/j09_2/j09_2_165.pdf.