Category Archives: Research methods

Nature Special: Challenges in Irreproducable Research

Once upon a time there was a Journal of Irreproducable Results, which published science humor. It started in 1955, says Wikipedia, and saw a schism in 1995 that led to the founding of the Annals of Improbable Research. AIR is noted for its awarding of the prestigous Ig Nobel awards, rewarding achievements that "first make people laugh, and then make them think".

Now the august journal Nature is getting into the fray, with an entire special issue on Challenges in Irreproducable Research. They describe it thusly:

No research paper can ever be considered to be the final word, and the replication and corroboration of research results is key to the scientific process. In studying complex entities, especially animals and human beings, the complexity of the system and of the techniques can all too easily lead to results that seem robust in the lab, and valid to editors and referees of journals, but which do not stand the test of further studies. Nature has published a series of articles about the worrying extent to which research results have been found wanting in this respect.

For more sources of irreproducable conclusions, a very good source is
the Retraction Watch weblog which tracks scientific fraud through watching for retractions of published papers. Now not every irreproducable result is the result of fraud – sloppy mistakes and bad data handling are in part to blame, as are difficult to replicate experimental conditions. Retraction Watch also covers garden-variety scientific fraud like plagiarism and the sin of submitting a single paper to more than one journal.


mobile meeting notes and mobile social networks

You're at a meeting, somewhere, and you want to quietly and unobtrusively take meeting notes or some other record of the meeting while it's happening, and you have a mobile phone but nothing else.

What tool or application do you use?

Mobile twitter.  Twitter your short notes out to the world, or use a direct message to some bot of some kind that collects and gathers the notes for you.   Twitter's mobile interface is fast, simple, and reasonably complete.  Down side: no easy way to look up something about the person who just introduced themselves.

Mobile Facebook.  Write on the wall of people (or your own wall) as notes come up, and then somehow reconstruct it afterwards.  The people search tool is very handy for looking folks up on the fly, and you can send someone a followup about some question while you're still at the event.  Down side: Slow enough that if people are moving fast you don't keep up.

Mobile wiki (Socialtext Miki).  Keep notes on a scratch pad on a wiki that you edit on your mobile device. A perfectly good text input box and it makes refining your notes into something longer very easy (and you can go back and figure out more about what you missed).    Down side: no lookup on the fly, so if you fumble someone's name you can't look it up.

Other mobile contact network and social network managers – both Plaxo and LinkedIn have mobile versions, and I haven't tried to figure out how to use those while standing up and listening to be a bit more informed.

Notable here is that there isn't a single Google mobile tool in the arsenal.  The Blackberry native mail client is better than the Google Mail java client, and almost anyone can have a text box open, but if there's a mobile Orkut then my world of people doesn't use it.

If I had two hands free to do this I probably would have used delicious as a part of the process – I've gone to a bunch of lecture or seminar type events where my pattern is to google what the speaker says and delicious the results, and if the net is fast enough where that is you can almost do that in close enough to real time to keep up.   But that's too much and too rude to do in anything other than a lecture situation.

Paper has some tremendous uses here – one recent event I went to I used some of Dave Gray's visual thinking skills that he's taught and put into his new book and did things like sketch what the speakers were wearing in addition to taking notes on what they were saying.   I have a much clearer visual memory of that event, but I don't remember anyone's names.

A work in process to be sure.  There were 11 tables full of people, and I got almost everyone's names, and didn't quite catch everything I hoped to catch; thanks everyone for lunch.  The conclusion of the question at the table – would you buy a car from a bankrupt auto company? – is that most people would be worried about service and availability of maintenance and parts, and that a Cuban mechanic would be someone to keep in your rolodex, and that if the worst happens at least we can look forward to an expanded orphan car show in Ypsi.

Why did the Royal Sovereign burn?

Text not available
Publications of the Navy Records Society  By Navy Records Society (Great Britain)

More details from the court martial records at the UK National Archives:








Scope and content
ff. 129-136 Thomas Couch, HMS Royal Sovereign.
Royal Navy Court Martial, 4 February 1696.
Crime: Neglect of duty causing ship to be burnt at her moorings.
Verdict: Guilty.
Sentence: 31 Lashes, Forfeit all pay and life imprisonment.
ff. 129-136 Thomas Everden, carpenter, HMS Royal Sovereign.
Royal Navy Court Martial, 4 February 1696.
Crime: Neglect of duty causing loss of HMS Royal Sovereign.
Verdict: Guilty. Claimed to be ashore sick but had not reported himself as such.
Sentence: Imprisoned for 12 months and all pay due to him forfeited to the Chest at Chatham.
ff. 129-136 John Meacham, boatswain, HMS Royal Sovereign.
Royal Navy Court Martial, 4 February 1695.
Crime: Negligence, causing the loss of the Royal Sovereign.
Verdict: Acquitted. When the fire started had cut the mooring robes thereby saving HMS Britannia from a similar fate.
ff. 129-136 Richard Seale, gunner, HMS Royal Sovereign.
Royal Navy Court Martial, 4 February 1696.
Crime: Negligence.
Verdict: Acquitted.
Covering dates 1696
Availability Open Document, Open Description, Normal Closure before FOI Act: 30 years 
Held by        





The National Archives, Kew