Facebook and grades

April 28, 2009 By Alan J. Salzberg
I don't have a long post for today, but I want to briefly discuss the discussion of a study on Facebook and grades. It was the subject of the Wall Street Journal's Numbers Guy blog last week: http://blogs.wsj.com/numbersguy/ .


The basic question is under what conditions should we publicize results, and should we wait for peer review?


Here was my comment:
I think if the caveats were printed along with the study results, then the publication is reasonable. Otherwise, we are being a bit paternalistic by implying that the general public cannot understand the caveats but we researchers can.


Suppose instead this was a study linking domestic air travel through a particular city to a new and deadly virus (say, swine flu?). Then there might be more reason to be more cautious (and paternalistic), because the cost of being wrong is very high. Still, there would be the counter-argument that not publishing could endanger people’s lives. We always have this trade-off, I believe, between unintentionally misleading people that a study is correct when it is not, and vice-versa.


In this open era, especially, I think the balance leans towards publishing, where the blogging/commenting public will quickly crucify the poor research and finding supporting evidence for good research.