Archive for December 20th, 2012

It used to be that TED speakers were a rather small group. Now, however, thanks to the proliferation of TEDx talks (which are organized by outsiders), the barrier to entry has been lowered significantly. Not wanting to sully the good name of TED, the TEDx blog posted a letter to organizers to help them tell the difference between “good” and “bad” science. Instead of summarizing the letter myself (because I’m lazy), I’ll quote some parts of the Slate article where I first read about it:

GOOD: “It makes claims that can be tested and verified,” and “It is backed up by experiments that have generated enough data to convince other experts of its legitimacy.”

BAD: “Has failed to convince many mainstream scientists of its truth,” and “Comes from overconfident fringe experts.”

These are then followed by a series of “red flag” topics and behaviors that, again, should serve as a warning that what the speaker is saying may not be legit: They are selling a product, they claim to have privileged knowledge, they demand TEDx presents “both sides of an issue.” (That last one is a biggie: In many cases there aren’t two sides unless one side is “reality” and the other is “nonsense.”)

If you’re not organizing a TEDx event, I think that this list might be equally useful as a guide for students who are trying to distinguish between “research” and “crap.”

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