Visit Cape Cosmos and Learn About the Future Past

I wrote recently about the radio program Rocketing Ahead, which discussed the political goings-on in the United States in the late 1950s that helped form NASA.  You can now listen to that broadcast via podcast at Cape Cosmos, an educational-ish website supported in part by the National Science Foundation.  Besides podcasts and links to Smithsonian affiliate museum events, the site has a series of interactive features to help describe what working at NASA was like in the 1950s and 1960s.  The theme here is to emphasize the very different social settings of the time and place where NASA was – the American south.  Not all of these features are quite ready (or I may have missed the part where I had to watch them in a special order to unlock others), so keep visiting the site.  You’ll need to press the flashing button after the introductory audio and click on Guide.

Besides Rocketing Ahead, you can check out two other podcasts (more may be added later).  Race and the Space Race is pretty self-explanatory.  Rocket Girls and Astro-nettes is as well, but will cover more than the early effort to test possible female American astronauts.  Each podcast is 52 minutes long, and worth the time.

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With Errata and Retractions Journals May Resemble Their Print Media Cousins

Dr. Free-Ride over at Adventures in Ethics and Science analyzes a 2007 paper in Science and Engineering Ethics (subscription required) assessing how well the scientific literature manages to address the consequences of articles that need retraction.

The article looks at biomedical research articles that were tagged as connected to scientific misconduct.  This means an official determination by the relevant agency (in this case the Public Health Service) that handles scientific misconduct.  The research judged how many articles were corrected or marked as required, and the extent to which other articles ended up citing articles connected to misconduct.  The research indicated that of 102 articles identified as needing retraction or correction, 98 were so noted in the PubMed database.  While that’s not perfect, it’s pretty good.

A serious concern, as noted by Dr. Free-Ride and the article’s authors, comes from the number of citations that reference the tagged material.  The 102 targeted papers generated roughly 6,000 citations by the time data collection for this paper was ended.  Now it’s hard to know, without going through all of these citations, how many of them were made to argue against the paper or note it as having some suspect quality to it.  Even if half of the 6,000 citations were of that character, there’s still a number of papers that relied on other papers that they shouldn’t have.

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