Mindless publishing garnished with social science apologies

Life is hard, science is harder, social science is impossible? Neurocopiae has to digest a bottomless dump of “fun” results.


Last time, I wrote a post about how difficult it is to do good research on nutrition and health (Cereal killer: Is eating breakfast the new smoking?). A couple of weeks later, as the pizzagate unfolds, we painfully learn more about these intricacies slice by slice. At the center of attention is Brian Wansink, who “is Professor and Director of the famed Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, where he is a leading expert in changing eating behavior“. If you have missed the start of the controversy and feel like you need to catch up on the full narrative, I have linked a good summary by Andrew Gelman. Briefly, Wansink wrote a post on his blog. He provided the career advice to never say no to your supervisor’s proposals because this is how you will get tenure by publishing numerous papers. Even if you have a dataset at hand that does not yield the expected result, you can torture it for a while until it finally surrenders and provides one or more significant results. Now, all it takes is little more deep diving into the data and a little pinch of wild story-telling and there you go: you have successfully inflated your list of publications. Treated in this do-or-die way, every study turns into science equivalent of the bottomless soup bowl that Wansink became famous for. Continue reading “Mindless publishing garnished with social science apologies”

Cereal killer: Is eating breakfast the new smoking?

Is breakfast dangerous? Neurocopiae swings the cereal club to protect your health.

It is difficult to see a week peacefully pass by without headlines pointing out how terribly wrong our diet or eating patterns have been so far. This week, stern.de joined the clickbait race by asking whether eating breakfast is the new smoking. Have we been all misled for decades? Fooled by froot loops? The post is based on a new book titled “Breakfast is a Dangerous Meal” by Terence Kealey. In his book, Kealey suggests that eating breakfast has a devastating effect on insulin sensitivity in the long run. My first thought was: If this is true, how could I miss the emerging evidence while doing research on insulin sensitivity and diabetes? Continue reading “Cereal killer: Is eating breakfast the new smoking?”

‘Tis the season, but not for weight loss

2016 draws to a close and New Year’s resolutions are just around the corner. Neurocopiae talks about intentions to lose weight and showcases google Trends. The trend is your friend.

As the year 2016 draws to a close, it is the perfect opportunity to look back at what we have accomplished and what lies ahead of us. New Year’s resolutions are a popular way to set ambitious goals. Yet, a new year does not magically bestow us with the willpower and persistence to succeed. This is why such resolutions have garnered a bad reputation in the press lately as if we were set to fail. However, the fate of our resolutions is barely more remarkable than the fate of the many good intentions that we fail to put into practice every day. Regardless of the season, intention is simply a bad predictor of long-term action. No need to heap blame on the New Year. Continue reading “‘Tis the season, but not for weight loss”

Tell me lies: the truth about the deceptive ACC (dACC)

What separates the truth from a lie? Neurocopiae talks about a recently published preprint on the response costs of lying. And we have blobs!

A couple of weeks ago, I published my first preprint on bioRxiv. Although there are many good reasons to publish preprints, we can put it simple and plain. They are an awesome opportunity to put your work out in the spotlight immediately. No paywall, no editorial evaluation of potential impact, no Reviewer #2. The only drawback is that they are not peer reviewed yet, so you basically have to read the paper as if you were reviewing it for a journal. Luckily, in times of rising numbers of paper submissions, this quickly becomes a habit anyway. Besides posting our drafts as preprints, what is the best thing that we can do to support the cause? Talk about preprints, of course. Continue reading “Tell me lies: the truth about the deceptive ACC (dACC)”

When the margin of error is decisive: Trump’s victory as a lesson for neuroscience, part 2

Many things may go wrong, but we can count on the standard error to be on the safe side, can’t we? Neurocopiae digs into the data to unearth common sources of error that are not “standard” errors.

One more week has passed since I posted the first part of my take on the presidential upset in the US elections. First of all, I want to say that I was pleasantly surprised to see that it received good attention and was picked by the editors of scienceseeker.org (thanks!). Once you wake up on the wrong side of the error bar, you start to wonder if there is any chance to do better next time. What worked in Trump’s favor, has also led to erroneous estimations of brain activation clusters in fMRI research. Correlated errors are omnipresent in data, but hardly present in statistical models regardless of the domain and I covered this aspect in Part 1. In the second part of my post, I will deal with two more statistical issues that surfaced after the election, but are not echoed in common practice data handling in neuroscience: 1) misconceptions about what the margin of error truly reflects and 2) the gap between a sample (what you got) and the underlying population (what you want to get at). Continue reading “When the margin of error is decisive: Trump’s victory as a lesson for neuroscience, part 2”

When the margin of error is decisive: Trump’s victory as a lesson for neuroscience, part 1

The world is not the same after Trump’s election and this blog is no different. Neurcopiae explores how we can learn from the failure of prediction models.

If casting predictions is your bread and butter, you know how hard it is to be spot on. Luckily, in most cases it does not matter when we happen to be a bit off target because the implications are modest at best. This is why every prediction comes with a margin of error or a confidence interval. Still, when Trump defied the odds of poll predictions on election night and edged out the victory, I felt deeply troubled. Stats let me down on this important occasion and it was tough to take. Continue reading “When the margin of error is decisive: Trump’s victory as a lesson for neuroscience, part 1”

A neurotopian hope for the future

Is your brain in search of a brighter future? Wait no longer and read what you can do to lighten up your brain.

Your brain has not been brought to its full potential yet. This is a scientific fact and I won’t bother you with the details that my statement is based on. Your brain has better things to do and you have been wasting time already for too long. Let me just ask you a simple question. Are you still drinking regular water? Maybe even tap water? No wonder you feel tired, stressed, and exhausted. Treat your brain to neuro water instead! Continue reading “A neurotopian hope for the future”