Author’s note: Today we revisit a 2010 post about the concept of ‘soundness’ as it pertains to a scientific paper. When I wrote this post, I was a postdoc in the Department of Communication at Cornell. I had just finished reading a book by the cognitive linguist, George Lakoff on how our beliefs are strongly influenced by metaphors. While political scientists are likely familiar with Lakoff’s work, he is not well known in science, where terms and phrases are assumed to be descriptive and objective, not rhetorical or manipulative. I was intrigued by how the term ‘open access‘ was used to stand for a multitude of positions and beliefs, and how the phrase ‘level playing field‘ was used to justify using library collection funds to pay for open access publication charges. In this post, I attempted to unpackage and analyze the phrases ‘sound science’ and ‘sound methods.’
There are a few details that have changed over the last six years: The journal information page at PLOS ONE no longer includes a denunciation of mainstream editorial decision-making. The social media aggregator, FriendFeed, was shut down, and Bora Zivkovic moved from PLOS to Scientific American, where in 2013, he resigned after a sexual harassment incident.
Can a scientific paper be methodologically sound, but just not report any significant or meaningful results?