The Corner

Science & Tech

Another Academic Science Field Fraught with Reliability Doubts

Vegetables are pictured at a supermarket in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico November 15, 2019. (Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters)

Should you eat this? Should you never eat that? How do we know?

Nutrition science should be able to help us answer such questions. The trouble, however, is that the field is plagued with problems as the Martin Center’s Anthony Hennen explains in today’s article. 

“The loudest critics,” he writes, “argue that the methodologies relied on by researchers give bad data that are meaningless at best. Others worry that funding gives undue influence to the federal government, big business, or influential nonprofit associations. And some critics think nutrition science focuses on the wrong questions entirely about nutrition.”

Lots of taxpayer money flows into universities for nutrition research, but is it worthwhile? Hennen cites critics who argue that the methods used are very questionable.

One problem (although not unique to this field) is peer review. Hennen writes, “Specialization also makes peer review difficult. [Virginia Tech professor Brenda] Davy mentioned how hard it can be to find a few professors to review an article; they may not have the time or expertise to provide an academic journal with the skeptic eye it needs.”

Neither Hennen nor any of those he cites has a sure-fire solution to the problems in the field of nutrition science. My guess is that they’d be minimized if government money wasn’t being used to fund academics in government-run universities.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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