by Stuart Ritchie ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 14, 2020
A timely, hair-raising must-read.
An unnerving yet much-needed analysis of why so many scientists publish nonsense.
A lecturer in social, genetic, and development psychiatry, Ritchie begins with an account of a respected Cornell psychology professor asking subjects to guess an object concealed behind one of two screens. As expected, they succeeded about half the time—unless the object was lurid, such as a pornographic picture. Then the success rate was over 53%, which, according to his 2011 paper, was “statistically significant” and evidence for extrasensory perception. The media trumpeted the study, and the professor appeared on talk shows. Good studies are repeatable, but when researchers tried it again, they found nothing. Subjects guessed correctly about half the time, pornography or not. The researcher remains a respected Cornell professor. What happened? Ritchie answers with a frighteningly well-documented follow-up to a 2005 article entitled “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False.” He makes it clear that fraud happens regularly. Asked anonymously, 2% of scientists admit to faking data, so the true incidence is undoubtedly higher. Far more disturbing is the massaging of data. As one wit said, “if you torture the data enough, it will confess to almost anything.” Thirteen percent of papers contain serious errors, and most favor the author’s conclusion. Bias distorts research, and serious, well-meaning scientists offend regularly. Everyone deplores media hype, but scientists increasingly litter papers with exuberant adjectives like “innovative,” “unique,” and “groundbreaking.” Ritchie admits that editors, academics, and foundations are growing less tolerant of scientists who game the system, but the difficulty is that scientists, being human, pursue rewards: jobs, promotions, research grants, fame. These follow dramatic announcements and media attention. Career advancement depends on sheer number of publications, and quality becomes irrelevant. Reform requires that scientists search for nature’s secrets purely for the joy of discovery. Some already follow this ideal, but readers may wonder if it will catch on.A timely, hair-raising must-read.
Pub Date: July 14, 2020
Page Count: 368
Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt
Review Posted Online: March 28, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020
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by David Grann ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 18, 2017
Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2017
New York Times Bestseller
National Book Award Finalist
Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.
During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.
Pub Date: April 18, 2017
Page Count: 352
Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017
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by Britney Spears ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 24, 2023
Spears’ vulnerability shines through as she describes her painful journey from vulnerable girl to empowered woman.
A heartfelt memoir from the pop superstar.
Spears grew up with an alcoholic father, an exacting mother, and a fear of disappointing them both. She also displayed a natural talent for singing and dancing and a strong work ethic. Spears is grateful for the adult professionals who helped her get her start, but the same can’t be said of her peers. When she met Justin Timberlake, also a Mouseketeer on the Disney Channel’s updated Mickey Mouse Club, the two formed an instant bond. Spears describes her teenage feelings for Timberlake as “so in love with him it was pathetic,” and she’s clearly angry about the rumors and breakup that followed. This tumultuous period haunted her for years. Out of many candidates for villains of the book, Timberlake included, perhaps the worst are the careless journalists of the late 1990s and early 2000s, who indulged Timberlake while vilifying Spears. The cycle repeated for years, taking its toll on her mental health. Spears gave birth to sons Sean Preston and Jayden James within two years, and she describes the difficulties they all faced living in the spotlight. The author writes passionately about how custody of her boys and visits with them were held over her head, and she recounts how they were used to coerce her to make decisions that weren’t always in her best interest. As many readers know, conservancy followed, and for 13 years, she toured, held a residency in Las Vegas, and performed—all while supposedly unable to take care of herself, an irony not lost on her. Overall, the book is cathartic, though readers who followed her 2021 trial won’t find many revelations, and many of the other newsworthy items have been widely covered in the run-up to the book’s release.Spears’ vulnerability shines through as she describes her painful journey from vulnerable girl to empowered woman.
Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2023
Page Count: 288
Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: tomorrow
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