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Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Most Dangerous Article



Introduction

After I shared with you my sample lesson on SharePoint Information Literacy (http://computersavviness.blogspot.com/2015/06/sharepoint-information-literacy.html ), I received overwhelming positive feedback about how SharePoint Information Literacy exists or does not exist in your workplace. Many of you have asked me about content clearance for your collection housed on the SharePoint platform.  What do you do when you find yourself giving your client an article with faulty data?  This concern is not just for SharePoint document libraries but also other online collections.   

Researching an article

A friend was looking for an article that was fairly recent. He was looking for an article in a specific journal with a specific name.  It was by a friend of his and he wanted to read it.  After searching, I found out that it was not a scholarly article that was peer-reviewed.  It was a blog entry on a blog that was indirectly related to the journal that he had mentioned.  Upon reading the blog entry, it did not have any references to the claims his friend made. There was no way,except asking his friend, to list his sources for what he claimed.  This “wild-goose chase” led me to thinking about how do we know that the articles we are giving to people, have been proven validated as truth?

In 2010, I wrote an article called “Outrageous Claims May Require More Than a Preponderance of Evidence” (http://computersavviness.blogspot.com/2010/07/outrageous-claims-may-require-more-than.html ) based on the same question.  A graduate student, Warren Davies, came across a 2005 study discussed on Tim Ferriss’ website about a psychiatrist at King’s College in London who had administered IQ tests to distracted participants.  Ferris pointed out that the participants distracted by email and ringing phones had lower IQ scores than people who were high on marijuana. 

Unfortunately, the 2005 study being referred to was by Dr. Glenn Wilson, a psychologist and not psychiatrist.  Wilson’s study was unpublished until 2010 and had nothing to do with marijuana.  Wilson had performed an informal study on eight Hewlett Packard employees during quiet and noisy conditions testing the participants' IQ with respect to sex, order of test conditions, and order of IQ test forms. The research findings were exaggerated and traveled all over the world through the Internet. 

Finding an Error—What Would You do?

Wilson had never published his 2005 findings until he posted a document in January 2010 on his website to discredit the misinformation BBC and other sources had published. The information is still out there with that false link to marijuana.  The truth is sometimes buried. 
What would you do if you had conducted research and found a great article that addressed all of the issues your client wanted you to answer, but before giving it to your client you found out that the data was wrong?  

You had seen on the news that the journal, who had printed the article, had retracted it due to faulty analysis? Do you just give it to the client because you had already told them that you found what they were looking for?  Do you, ethically, stop everything and try to find another article? If the article is sent to your client, you will be part of continuing the link to this retracted article.  You will be part of that fallacy.

What if you do not know that the article was retracted?  You contact your client and send the article to complete your obligation.  If the article, supporting institution, and authors are not in the main news, you would never know. 

The article, like so many out there, is still waiting to catch another unwary researcher.  As of the writing of this article, there was no single centralized database of containing all retracted articles of the world.  There are sites that are trying to centralize this watch for you.   There are some interesting stories behind retracted articles that you can read more about at   http://retractionwatch.com/2010/08/03/why-write-a-blog-about-retractions/   or http://retract.rutgers.edu/about.php

Conclusion- How Many of these Websites are Out there?

Today, is an interesting time where so many scientific articles are being retracted.  I will be continuing this topic with information that I have found to help others in this same dilemma.  If you find more websites trying to capture the retracted articles, please feel free to post them here.  Then, it will be easier for others to find and use when needed.