Thursday, March 17, 2011

Editor's Selections: Urban Health, Research Biases, Penis Spines, Ecstasy Propaganda, and Scallops

This week in the social sciences on
  • In many urban settings, we've come a long way from open sewers and tenement style housing. However, we have yet to fully understand the impact of changes to urban ecosystems and their faunal residents on human health and well-being. Tim De Chant discusses the implications of wildlife diseases, and raises possible means of managing risks.
  • As much as researchers try to be objective, they are often swayed by their contexts. This includes not only their own personal beliefs, but also the positions larger state and national standings. Amy Freitag presents a clear dissection of First and Third World designations and highlights how this can color both research questions and findings.
  • Sex can be a motivating factor for any number of causes, but could it be the basis for pairbonding? Researchers recently argued that the loss of penis "spikes" would have allowed for longer instances of intercourse, which would have aided in the emergence of social monogamy. However, in the latest installment of the PDEx tour, Eric Michael Johnson raises some issues with this argument and demonstrates that there is no correlation between penis spikes and primate mating systems.
  • There are many repercussions to bad science, but it is particularly devastating when bad science becomes a part of propaganda. Neurobonkers shows readers how a poorly constructed study on ecstasy use has been leveraged by governments to control the use and distribution of the drug.
  • While bad science often reflects a poorly designed research experiment, that is not to say that there aren't any number of challenges to be found in the research process itself. Using a scallop population believed to be at risk from algal blooms, Johnny Scallops discusses an instance where lab generated results fall short of accurately reflecting real world events.
I'll be back next Thursday with more selections from the social sciences!

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