The Use Of Fake Data – Can We Use A Different Word?

Eugenie Reich has an article in Nature News about the use of mock, simulated or fake data in astronomy research on dark matter.  The terms are used interchangeably in the piece, but I would choose simulated over the other two.  It simply minimizes the chances of misinterpretation by the public.  I’m reminded of the mini-firestorm initiated by opponents of climate change policy to references in scientific discussions about using ‘tricks’ to present climate data.

I’m not sure of any opposition (organized or otherwise) to research involving dark matter or dark energy.  But I think it could well strike the public as odd, or perhaps counterintuitive, to hear references to fake data in scientific research without reference to fraud or other bad activities.  In the instances cited by Reich, the simulated data are used to test algorithms and related methods for identifying galaxies from large data sets gathered by scientific instruments.  It would be comparable to using a test weight or other object to calibrate an instrument.  I don’t think such calibration or refinement tests are well served by referring to fake or mock data.  But I may be overthinking this.

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3 thoughts on “The Use Of Fake Data – Can We Use A Different Word?

  1. Two of the ‘climate change’ critics have taken issue with representations of various ‘scientific’ political footballs. Denis Rancourt http://activistteacher.blogspot.ca/2010/06/some-big-lies-of-science.html http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.ca/2010/07/honest-broker.html I’m sure I’ve seen similar quips from Dr. John v Kampen at my.opera.com/nepmak2000/blog Even coal tech ( an energy issue which has a long history of control and disinformation manoevering ) has bad blowback from acid rain concerns. Check out Sourcewatch on coal ash. And Africans are convinced Silent Spring did more to perpetuate malaria than save the world from pesticide side effects.
    The drug industry and industrial food also have odd representations. Exploring vaccination side effects immediately brings out castigation as anti science. And the history of medical trials is an ongoing scandal. Even Pasteurization should take hits as ignoring results – especially now I note even fruit juice is to be stripped of nutrition in the name of safety – but really by stabilizing it into dead chemical formulations.
    So your worry about the public misinterpreting the issue borders on inane. Madison Avenue would be another question.

  2. Not sure how this comment has anything to do with the point of my post – that calling simulated data fake is a bad idea. Unless your response demonstrates that the use of the term fake data automatically makes people think about the contested claims you reference.

  3. Yes and No. Mock would work I suspect, but the point “currently reported results of analyses of observational lensing data cannot be validated” is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. The big difference here is that – as you note – it is hard to see where anyone would find any point in pretense. Unfortunately, that does not always seem a functional guide.

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