A celebration (and mocking) of ridiculously useless research

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Welcome to Duh!scoveries

Have you ever read a newspaper or magazine article about some important new scientific finding and your immediate reaction was "Duh, who doesn't know that?" Then you've found a Duh!scovery!

Duh!scoveries can be found all over the world and in every field of science, but you'll generally find them skulking about most often in these areas:

  • The social sciences
  • Humanities
  • Economics
In many cases, this research is somewhat valid - it seeks to formalize or quantify "common" understandings about the real world that everyone intuitively knows is true but may be hard pressed to prove (half the Nobel Prizes in Economics seem to be awarded for this kind of research). In other cases, the research is new and novel, but the press releases simplify the results to such a degree that the resulting miasma of platitudes and boilerplate might make Einstein seem a simpleton.

There are also, however, plenty of papers, studies, journal articles and conference reports that are so brain-poundingly obvious that their only possible justification was to keep someone alive in the "publish or perish" tenure track at some publicly funded university. Many such studies appear to be designed simply to "educate the rubes" about some controversial topic in a way that bypasses the opinion pages and lands directly in the health or news section.

We also suspect that sometimes grant money is just too darned tempting to pass up, even if you don't have anything really clever to say. We empathize (about the clever bit).

This blog has been created as an outlet to both celebrate and ridicule this bastard step-child of science. We are quite enamored of the real stuff - Darwin rules! - but cannot stand idly by when a Nobel Prize is awarded to someone figuring out that the seller of a car knows more than buyers about the quality of his car. Asymmetric Information, the Nobel Prize winner in Economics for 2001. Look it up!

Just imagine - up until the year 2001, you could have so totally scammed your econ professor into buying your personally dedicated, signed copy of Das Kapital! Damn, the money we could've made...

As you can see, the snark level of this blog will be quite high and we will be ever vigilant in our quest to mock the "leading" researchers of our time. In our eyes, ill-gotten fame can be a cruel mistress, but we shall always endeavor to keep our postings in the vein of light-hearted jests.

Well, maybe...


At July 29, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quite interesting! I have observed this phenomena for many years but have never done a thing about it. Could it be this is where a lot of government grant money goes? Duh!



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