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Take it Easy

What happens when science moves too fast? Researchers rush to publish their results, they can make mistakes and exaggerate the importance of their work, cut corners, and sometimes commit fraud, says John Horgan at the Scientific American Cross-check blog. And journalists also rush to publish news, creating hype over "flimsy findings" that should never have been published he adds. That's why some researchers are now championing what's being called the "slow science movement," which calls on researchers to be deliberate and cautious in what they choose to print. There's even a "Slow Science Manifesto" published by some researchers in Germany, who write:

Science needs time to think. Science needs time to read, and time to fail. Science does not always know what it might be at right now. Science develops unsteadily, with jerky moves and unpredictable leaps forward — at the same time, however, it creeps about on a very slow time scale, for which there must be room and to which justice must be done.

Society should give researchers the time they need to do their work, and scientists themselves must take the time, the manifesto adds.

"Part of me wants to applaud these pleas for science's deceleration," Horgan says, adding, "I've expended much of my career heaping calumny on bad science. So why am I opposed to the slow-science movement? Here's why. I fear that, if scientists really slow down, and start publishing only high-quality data and theories that have been double and triple-checked, I won't have anything left to write about."

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