Scientific literature – A jungle full of obstacles

Within a scientific cycle, there is one part, which is quite traditional and the foundation of scientific work. It is the reading of the current literature on the topic the scientist is working on. Even when earth sciences are mainly experimental driven, either in the field or with a computer, it is essential to know what others have written about your topic and methods. In the following I would like to take a look on the background of the literature in science, its role and what consequences this brings for the scientists and others. Continue reading

Advertisements

It’s the uncertainty, stupid!

Within science it is not unusual that great findings get congratulated, which consists of reduced uncertainties. “The next big thing” is sometimes rushed into publication, often in the form of a nice number, and sometimes significance of the result is the selling argument. Unfortuneately, a sole number is worth nothing in the most cases, as long as it is not backed up by the information how sure the author is about it. These information are usually called uncertainties and can be found in a lot of different forms. Sometimes they are some significance levels, sometimes a simple sigma-level. Often these uncertainties quantifying numbers and especially the methods how these numbers are retrieved is the really important thing in a publication.

Sure, for someone like me, who has uncertainty quantification as the main job, this is seen especially critical. But there are also good arguments that the statistical part in a publication is as important as the result itself. With any given quantification of uncertainty assumptions are made and these assumption decide in the end, whether the big result is really big or just nice to have. That this has become critical in science has been discussed for years in many fields, but especially this year these discussions got hot and led to consequences.

Continue reading