View Full Version : Worst New Scientist article ever!

Kevin Bonham
11-12-2009, 08:56 PM
Dogs vs cats: The great pet showdown


I give this tripe the laziness it deserves by recycling my response from another forum:

Apparently I just heard Dogs are better pets than Cats. But only by a whisker.

Based on some misconceived study in which the authors determined eleven qualities considered desirable in a pet, weighted them equally, and found (in reference to relevant published studies) that dogs scored higher on six and cats on five.

Of course, every owner's weighting of the various qualities will vary depending on their requirements in a pet and hence even taking the research into account, they will get different answers.

Furthermore, one of the categories included (length of time of domestication) is irrelevant to whether something makes a good pet now, especially as the longer ago something was domesticated the more likely it was domesticated for purposes that differ from those considered important today. So that one should be removed making it a 5-5 tie.

Unless the secondary reporting of all this is a gross misrepresentation then New Scientist has demeaned itself considerably by getting involved in this tripe and the article is probably not fit for pet food.

That said, I have not yet read the original.

[EDIT: I have now: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg2 ... ?full=true

It is even worse than I expected. It should be sent to New Idea.]

NB: My bias is obvious - but it does not invalidate my criticism.

11-12-2009, 10:09 PM
Sounds like Ig Nobel prize worthy research. :rollseyes:

Kevin Bonham
11-12-2009, 10:27 PM
Lest some of the more habitual NS-bashers here get carried away, I should point out that while the articles cited in the NS article are often peer-reviewed research published in serious scientific journals, the article itself is no such thing - it is just a piece of trashy, silly, attention-generating pop-science gone horribly wrong. It is not even "research" as such, so much as an example of how not to present a literature review.

As such, the article itself should not be considered to represent "science" or used as a stick to beat "science" with. Nor should my criticisms of the article reflect on any of the sources it cites.

11-12-2009, 10:37 PM
Yes it is a bit of fun not even a literature review as such. Just some science writer at NS with too much time on his hands and an editor with a directive to boost interest in the online forum I suspect. However, a magazine which wishes to be taken even half seriously should avoid the 'Today Tonight' formula.