Slate has an important article about how the studies behind last year’s headlines saying that things like divorce, obesity and loneliness spread through social networks like a ‘contagion’ may not be as sound as the stories suggested.
The headline grabbing study on ‘divorce contagion’ has still yet to be published as it hasn’t made it through the scientific peer-review process. The authors are criticised for talking to the media about the conclusions before the results have been confirmed.
Other studies were published in leading journals but the same publications have been much less keen to air criticisms of the work despite the fact that many leading names in the network analysis community have highlighted problems in the methods used in the research.
This is perhaps the real story here, as many conclusions turn out to be wrong in science, but the big name journals work much more like the popular media than they like to admit – heralding flashy new findings but being unwilling to take on the responsibility of continuing the debate after the glitz has faded.
It’s worth noting that the debate about the ‘social contagion’ studies is ongoing but the Slate article has some good coverage of where the growing doubts lie.
Link to Slate article ‘Disconnected?’