#7 James Evans - How We Do Science Determines What We Discover


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Ever heard of meta-science?

It’s the science of science. In this episode, I interview the meta-scientist James A. Evans who explains how science happens, why smaller teams do big scientific breakthroughs, similarities between startups and scientific endeavors, and what research shows about the path to success.

His research shows how science is not an automatic machine that keeps on generating truth, but is rather a system where social dynamics of how scientists interact with each other determine what they end up discovering.
About the guest

James Evans is the Director of Knowledge Lab, and faculty at the Sociology department at the University of Chicago. His research uses machine learning and large-scale data to understand how groups think and what they know. He studies collective efforts like science and Wikipedia to figure out how collective attention is distributed, how new ideas originate, and how shared habits of reasoning emerge.

What we talk about

0:04 – Introduction
1:49 – How science happens?
5:47 – Why science is going through a replication crisis?
11:33 – Does science generate truths?
15:14 – How does truth get established in any field?
20:04 – Robustness vs replicability
22:12 – Instead of open science, we should have more closed science
26:05 – Why we need diversity in scientific thought and process
28:40 – On risk in science and why failure is actually the success in scientific studies?
29:34 – Funding in science studies vs funding in start-ups
32:39 – How to push the system to increase the risk appetite in science?
37:29 – On having a diverse portfolio of research directions to enable yourself to take more risks
43:40 – Is productivity in science declining?
47:28 – Why prevents getting more breakthroughs in science
50:05 – Increasing failure to increase successful science discoveries
55:34 – We need to treat new start-up theories charitably
58:20 – How is success achieved across various fields?
1:02:34 – Using data from failures to figure success
1:04:35 – Difference between what you are doing vs others is the high ground of success
1:06:35 – Your research on aesthetics of knowledge – what is it and why are you interested in it

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