News of the problems in science has made its way from academic journals into the mainstream press: revelations of fraud and misconduct, failures to replicate key findings, and an inability to deliver on the promise of reliable knowledge. For this special section, we have invited several close observers of the scientific scene to explain what has gone wrong and to offer some suggestions for what can be done to put science back on track.
First, does all the talk about the current moment of “crisis” in science miss the deeper problems that beset the scientific enterprise? That is the case made by Daniel Sarewitz in a major essay that explodes some of our cherished myths about how science works and what it’s good for. We put too much faith in curiosity-driven science, Sarewitz argues; unless science is guided by real-world problems it becomes not just useless but unreliable.
Next, Ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus explain why the number of retracted scientific papers has risen sharply in recent years, and what that rise tells us about the ability of science to police itself.
Finally, Barbara A. Spellman discusses trends in technology and demographics that have caused some of the problems that science now faces — and that may also help to resolve them.
Publication of this special section was made possible through the support of a grant from the John Templeton Foundation; the opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation.