Monday, July 27, 2009

How is it that some propositions become accepted as true...

...even if they're not.

And how is it that evidence to the contrary gets buried?

It's all in this chart →

Here's the fascinating paper from the British Medical Journal that uses a citations network to examine the question:

How citation distortions create unfounded authority

Steven A Greenberg, Harvard Medical School

To understand belief in a specific scientific
claim by studying the pattern of citations among papers
stating it.

A complete citation network was constructed from
all PubMed indexed English literature papers addressing
[a belief]. Social network theory and graph theory were used to
analyse this network.

Unfounded authority was established
by citation bias against papers that refuted or weakened
the belief; amplification, the marked expansion of the
belief system by papers presenting no data addressing it;
and forms of invention such as the conversion of
hypothesis into fact through citation alone...

The same sort of thing doubtless happens in journalism as well as in academic citation, and has probably happened through time immemorial in gossip.

Econophysists study this sort of thing. We need their insights, and others.

HT: Julie