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The power of suggestion

Good old Al Gore.  He sure does know how to twist a debate.  His target now is his former political comrade in arms, Rick Perry, now a likely Republican candidate for the Presidency.  Rick Perry had apparently said that ‘I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data, so that they will have dollars rolling into their, to their projects’.  Given the way that science funding works, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if that’s what happens.

In comes gallant knight Gore to defend the integrity of scientists against a right wing smear scheme (not that Gore makes any money from the Green Machine, of course), declaring that scientists are not raking the money in, but are just getting by – doing reasonably well, but no more.

Um, except that’s not what is being alleged.  The accusation is not that some scientists are directly personally benefiting, but that they are getting funds for their projects by choosing topics that they know will get funding.  And studies supporting ‘hot’ or ‘fashionable’ ideas are massively more likely to get funding, creating a reinforcement bias and syndrome that is acid to the heart of true scientific endeavour.

Unfortunately, such a dynamic is not at all unknown, and it is highly likely to be taking place on that politically hot of all politically hot science-related topics – anthropocentric global warming.