For many years this blog has had a focus on neuroscience, synaesthesia and autism, and I know that many of my readers have an interest in the autistic spectrum, for whatever reason. For those wishing to know more about the complex area of autism and Asperger syndrome the sensible advice has always been to look to evidence in the form of studies and reviews of research published in reputable scientific and medical journals. This is sound advice, but much too reassuring. Even the most supposedly sound sources of information such as university professors, published studies and science journals should be regarded with caution. Nothing and no one can be completely trusted, because the game of science is full of conflicting interests. This is a troubling fact that the popularizers of science and the cheer-squad for the scientific/rational world view happily overlook or dismiss as unimportant (I'm looking at you, Dr Karl).
Please read the recent news article linked to below and consider how easy it apparently was for academics in an Australian university (Prof. Bruce Murdoch, Caroline Barwood and M. L. Ng) to get a study published in an international science journal despite the fact that the study was apparently never conducted, and also please consider how they apparently managed to get their hands on a $20,000 grant for that phantom research study. Please also consider that the type of neuro-therapy that the dodgy boffins in the article were supposed to have administered in their study, repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, is one of the biggest new fads in autism cures, and has been championed by the celebrity "aspergian" autobiographer John Elder Jobison. One Australian university has been conducting a research program in repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation as a treatment for autism for many years (I wrote about and criticised those researchers a number of years ago at this blog). Please also consider the fact that autism research attracts copius funding from government and charity bodies, and therefore could well be a field of research that would attract researchers who are more interested in dollars than knowledge. What percentage of autism research is a complete crock of shit? We can only speculate, but there's a pretty strong smell, and it isn't a pleasant one.
University of Queensland investigates paper by ex-staff member citing 'no evidence' of research.
by Melinda Howells
4 Sep 2013.http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-09-03/uq-investigates-study-that-might-never-have-happened/4932648
The paper itself:
Retraction Watch on the paper:
More media coverage: