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Publisher's Summary

An insider’s view of science reveals why many scientific results cannot be relied upon - and how the system can be reformed.

Science is how we understand the world. Yet failures in peer review and mistakes in statistics have rendered a shocking number of scientific studies useless - or, worse, badly misleading. Such errors have distorted our knowledge in fields as wide-ranging as medicine, physics, nutrition, education, genetics, economics, and the search for extraterrestrial life. As Science Fictions makes clear, the current system of research funding and publication not only fails to safeguard us from blunders but actively encourages bad science - with sometimes deadly consequences.

Stuart Ritchie’s own work challenging an infamous psychology experiment helped spark what is now widely known as the "replication crisis", the realization that supposed scientific truths are often just plain wrong. Now, he reveals the very human biases, misunderstandings, and deceptions that undermine the scientific endeavor: from contamination in science labs to the secret vaults of failed studies that nobody gets to see; from outright cheating with fake data to the more common, but still ruinous, temptation to exaggerate mediocre results for a shot at scientific fame.

Yet Science Fictions is far from a counsel of despair. Rather, it’s a defense of the scientific method against the pressures and perverse incentives that lead scientists to bend the rules. By illustrating the many ways that scientists go wrong, Ritchie gives us the knowledge we need to spot dubious research and points the way to reforms that could make science trustworthy once again.

©2020 Stuart Ritchie (P)2020 Macmillan Audio

What the critics say

“A desperately important book. Stuart Ritchie’s much-needed work brilliantly exposes the fragility of the science on which lives, livelihoods, and our whole society depend.” (Adam Rutherford, author of A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived)

“An unnerving yet much-needed analysis.... Frighteningly well-documented.... A timely, hair-raising must-read.” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) 

“A bracing indictment.... Thorough and detailed, this is a sobering and convincing treatise for anyone invested in the intellectual credibility of science.” (Publishers Weekly

What listeners say about Science Fictions

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Should be mandatory reading for grad students

A series of well written anecdotes of science gone astray and how to avoid similar pitfalls. This should be on a mandatory reading list for anyone who engages in scientific research or data analysis in general. The book is both engaging and informative!

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In a depth looking into the problems plaguing science

An important dive into the path of science as it becomes more tied to industry.

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  • Gel
  • 2020-09-18

Fascinating

I found this book full of fascinating concepts. It did make me leery of science and papers. Well worth a listen.

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  • Todd
  • 2020-08-06

Needed Now More Than Ever

People are putting so much faith today in science as being immutable; however it’s not and never has been. Think of earth is flat, bleeding people to heal them, and light travels on something called ether. Today is no different. It’s biased and often wrong. We all must dig into the research ourselves to understand how valid it might be. Most scientists are trying to do the right thing but that doesn’t mean they are coming up with the right answer. Couple that with a number of scientists who are biased because of who’s funding them, always be aware of what you read.

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  • Lucy Herndon
  • 2020-07-24

Fascinating book!

This is a wonderfully educational and entertaining book, delving into the world of science hoaxes, non-replicating studies, P-hacking, the Publish-or-Perish quagmire, and many other hair raising twists and turns involving the mistakes and perverse incentives of the science study world. I recommend this book to everyone who wants to be a better, wiser consumer of science studies as they are reported on NPR, the nightly news, and in the prestigious journals Science and Nature, the Lancet, the New England Journal, etc. Stuart Richie did a splendid job writing this book, and he reads it very nicely for the Audible Edition, in his lovely Scottish accent. I highly recommend it!

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  • Lex Gomez
  • 2021-04-23

horrifying... and fascinating

baby scientist here. the opening chapters 100% gave me anxiety, but by the end I felt better equipped to approach my (and others') data

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  • Log Jammin
  • 2020-07-23

valuable lessons abt performance of modern science

Ritchie skillfully reads the audio version science fictions. It would be a great book for undergrad science students and perhaps recent grads of non-science degree programs. Young brains would benefit from the lessons in skepticism, incentives, and the scientific method. Although nothing Ritchie shares was shocking to me as a skeptical adult who enjoys learning of recent and misunderstood scientific studies (power posing & erroneously performed vaccine studies to name a few), the examples he shares provide valuable lessons about modern norms that lead to bad science.

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  • Mitch
  • 2020-09-26

Eye opening

Heard about this on Mysterious Universe podcast so gave it a try. Great listen, author has clearly well researched the issue of fictional scientific reports and presents plausible ways to deter such occurrences. It was astounding to realize how much this happens and gave me a new lens of skepticism. However, if you're looking to justify refusing vaccines or a flat earth, that's not here. This author is striving to save scientific reports from falsehoods in order to combat exactly those extreme beliefs. Best non fiction book of 2020 for me.

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  • Trebla
  • 2020-09-17

Very Well Done But not sure of the Audience

Most of what Ritchie tells us is already well known in the science community, and the humanities people will not understand or misunderstand. The target is probably 1st year grad students and a few, very few, senior scientists who could head the call to action. I liked his ideas but it seems a bit tedious at this time.

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  • Mao Dom
  • 2020-09-10

The most important book for...

...everyone who was denied a real science education by ideologues and activists in the schools. The takeaway is: you are allowed to question science, you are supposedly to question science. Science is more impressive, not less, when it survives doubt.

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  • Michiel
  • 2020-07-23

Excellent

An excellent meta analysis of the state of science. I highly recommend this book and wish more people understood these ideas when leveraging “scientific” results especially from social science.

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  • chris boutte
  • 2020-07-22

This will shake your view on science

Incredible book that I binged in a day. As an influencer who often references psychological studies but also knows how much bad science is out there, I’m always trying to learn more about this subject.

This author did a great job not just giving examples of bad science, but he explains WHY it’s happening and offers solutions. Absolutely loved this book and hope some journalists read it as well before they keep reporting on hyped up science.