judicialsupport

Legal Writing for Legal Reading!

A Personal Touch

Check out Faye Cohen’s post to her blog Toughlawyerlady!

ToughLawyerLady

I am going to toot my own horn. Having just concluded the winter holiday season, it has caused me to reflect on the way the Law Office of Faye Riva Cohen, P.C. does business. We employ a personal touch, which has, and does, serve us well. The manner in which our Firm develops and keeps relationships with our clients, develops and keeps relationships with other attorneys and law firms, and the manner in which we stay in contact with former attorneys and other staff who have worked for us, I believe distinguishes us from many lawyers and law firms who and which I have encountered.

This personal relationship extends to the personal note I sometimes add to the thousand or so holiday cards we send each year, the gifts I personally select for some of the vendors we do business with, and the fact that many of the attorneys who…

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Socialism and the Early Distributists

This article is part of my posts on the economic system of distributism.  This is from practicaldistributism.blogspot.com which you can find here:

“Distributists are often accused of being socialists, or at least quasi-socialists. This is a claim which we vehemently deny. However, it might be a surprise to know that some of the early distributists were involved in the early socialist movement. Does this fact not give credence to the claim that distributism is a form of socialism? Does this mean that distributists are being dishonest or inconsistent about the origins and aims of the distributist movement? These are serious questions which we must be prepared to answer. Although many people seem to be growing disillusioned by capitalism, the majority are not so deluded as to accept socialism. In order to address the issue, we must look at the beginnings of both the socialist and distributist movements.”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Distributism or Capitalism: Two Ways to Work – Part 2

This article is part of my posts on the economic system of distributism.  This is from practicaldistributism.blogspot.com which you can find here:

[see part one here]

“Next we come to what we term one’s competitors, that is, those producing or selling the same sort of product. Under capitalism such producers are pretty much the enemy. Though there is a certain amount of collaboration on shared concerns – such as lobbying the government on matters of interest for the entire industry – generally it is held that since it is the natural aim of each business to increase its income without limit, the success of one firm always comes at the expense of the other firms. Each is competing for as much market share as possible. And such an attitude flows logically from a concern solely with profit and “the amount of wealth accumulated by the dealer.” But if sellers and producers see themselves as supplying a need of the public, there is no reason why they cannot regard their fellow sellers and producers as partners in the same effort. Provided that sellers or producers make a profit sufficient to cover costs and provide for their livelihood, why should they wish that other sellers or producers of the same product suffer or go out of business?”

You can learn more about this issue here.

Dual YA narratives (of the timey wimey variety)

Here is the latest post by Angela and Daz Croucher to their blog A.D. Croucher! They are up-and-coming young adult authors. Check them out!

A.D. Croucher

You know those times when you want a YA novel that’s like a contemporary, and a historical? Here’s 5 YAs that give you both.

In Darkness

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Yes in 2016: We Exist Through This Strange Disguise

This post is the part of my Yes concert series of posts.  I started this series here and you can read the others here.

Over the past 48 years, Yes has had many lineups and members.  In fact, no lineup has survived more than two consecutive albums.  So, shuffling the lineup is nothing new for the band, but something seemed to change in 2015 with the passing of Yes founder Chris Squire (I wrote extensively about his passing here).  At the moment, Yes, in 2016, consists of guitarist Steve Howe, keyboardist Geoff Downes, vocalist Jon Davison, bass player Billy Sherwood, and drummer Jay Schellen (drummer Alan White is technically still in the band but is convalescing from back surgery and is supposed to return to the band once he recovers.  Schellen is filling in for him for the time being).  The loss of Squire was huge and pushed Yes into uncharted territory and, now, if it did not with the loss of Squire, with the (allegedly temporary) loss of Alan White, the band has now truly entered into an existential crisis (Howe has indicated in a recent interview that White will “take a while” to recover, which does not bode well for his return any time soon, if at all, see here).

Now, many Yes fans cannot seem to recognize the reality that Yes2016 is a Yes unlike what has ever come before, and that it represents an existential crisis for the band.  Indeed, a perusal of any Yes Faceboook group reveals many Yes fans are in denial about Yes’s 2016 lineup, and vociferously so, with many proclaiming that Yes2016 is like any other lineup Yes has ever had, and pointing out that that is clearly not the case means one is not a “true” fan or some such nonsense.

Maybe being from Philadelphia, and being a fairly typical Philadelphia sports fan (see here and here), I am able to bridge the gap between recognizing the crisis Yes is struggling through while enjoying and being a fan of the band simultaneously.  Philadelphia Phillie, and greatest third basemen of all time, Mike Schmidt once said “Philadelphia is the only city where you can experience the thrill of victory and the agony of reading about it the next day.”  My wife once quipped that the Philadelphia Eagles often have such a great road record because they get heckled less on the road as compared to at home.  In short, Philadelphia fans fill the seats and watch the games with utmost love and loyalty while relentlessly booing and criticizing their teams at the same time.  As a Philadelphia Yes fan, I have not missed a show in 22 years, and I ravenously buy up whatever they release (and then some), but that does not provide me any conflict with recognizing the negatives in the band.

It is my observation that bands seem to come in three types.  The first is the small group of friends who get together to form a band and stay together for a long time so that those guys become identical with the band.  I am thinking of ELP, Rush, ZZ  Topp, the Beatles, and Led Zeppelin.  The second type is a band controlled by one guy (or so), and that guy, regardless of anyone else, becomes identical with the band.  For example, Jethro Tull, Procol Harum, Porcupine Tree, and King Crimson basically function as the project of one member regardless of whomever else is in the band.  The third type is a band with a shifting lineup that cannot seem to settle on a guy or guys that truly represent the band over all the others.  Savoy Brown, Uriah HeepLynyrd Skynyrd, and, relevant to this post, Yes are like that.  This third type is much harder to define and discern, ontologically, just what makes the band what it is.  The first type is easy: the band is who it more-or-less always has been and if it loses one or more of those guys, it is no longer the band.  The second type is even easier: is the “leader” in the band?  If so, it is the band, if not, then it is not the band.

The third type requires additional work.  One needs to discern and figure out just what the essential elements of the band are, and whether a particular iteration of the band has those elements.  It is not particularly obvious, especially not with a band like Yes, where it can exist along side a band like ABWH: in 1989 Yes was paving its future with two founders and its most recent lineup while, simultaneously, ABWH also had two founders and two classic members, and played traditional Yes music.  Which is, ontologically/existentially speaking, Yes?  What makes Yes, well, Yes?  Is it the music? The members? The vision? It is not an easy question, and the mere legal entity with the right to use the name really does not answer the greater and more ontological, spiritual, existential, and/or philosophical question as to what makes the band what it is.

Despite having the reputation for having a rotating lineup, Yes’ personnel is actually a lot more stable than people like to admit.  Yes formed in 1968.  Chris Squire, a Yes founder, was in the band continuously until his untimely death in summer 2015 (see here).  He founded the band with vocalist Jon Anderson in 1968.  Howe joined in 1970, which first formed the core of Squire, Anderson, and Howe.  In 1972 that core expanded to include drummer Alan White when he replaced drummer Bill Bruford.  From 1972 to 2015 there has never been a Yes (leaving the technical and arguable issues of ABWH aside) without at least three of these men in the lineup, and all four have been in Yes from 1972 – 1979, 1991 – 1992, and 1996 – 2008.

In the context of Yes’ “core,” Squire’s departure was a huge step into the unknown for Yes.  I did not realize just how huge until recently when I just happened to watch old footage of Yes’s television appearances in 1968 through 1970 (see here).  The Yes in those videos was its original line up which consisted of Anderson, Squire, Bill Bruford, Peter Banks (guitar), and Tony Kaye (keyboards).  After watching this video I realized that it is now possible, for the very first time in Yes history, to watch or listen to a Yes lineup (or indeed even ABWH) that contains no current Yes members.  This is perhaps why Squire’s loss has hit me so much harder than Anderson’s departure from the band in 2008.  At least with the loss of Anderson, the core still retained three of them (as it did without Anderson during the Drama era or the post-Big Generator era for example).  Now the core is reduced to two (assuming White remains) and, in a five man band, can two really be considered “a core,” especially since neither, either together or separate, can lay claim to every era of Yes?  For the very first time in Yes’ history, its lineup has lost all continuity with its origin.

It gets worse.  Yes2016 has doubled down on the reduction of the core.  White is out of the band, allegedly temporarily, for back surgery, being replaced by Asia/Conspiracy/Circa alumnus Jay Schellen.  Now, the band’s core is reduced to just Howe, and that reduction has left a band which has almost no connection to the Yes of 2008-2011 (Howe alone is connects the two) let alone the founding lineup.  The band has had eighty-percent turn over in just over five years; that is how unstable this band is!  Yes has always had a rotating lineup, but it has never been this unstable.  Three times in Yes history it lost/replaced two of its five members at the same time, and in one of those three times the replacements were former members.  Yes has never lost three, let alone four, members so quickly (and produced so little to boot)!  In the current line up (with Schellen), there are currently no founders, one guy from the 1970s (Yes’ defining era and the one that people care about), no one from YesWest (the nickname for the guitarist Trevor Rabin led resurgent Yes of the 1980s), two guys in the band have a total of 1 Yes album between them (namely 2014’s Heaven & Earth which fans pan), three of the guys have only three Yes albums between them (fans pan two of them (Heaven & Earth and Open Your Eyes) and one is obscure (The Ladder from 1999)), only one guy in common with a line up from only five years ago (Howe), four guys have only five Yes albums between them (none are classic (four are from 1997 onward when the band was nearly thirty years old (and almost 20 years after the classic era) and already considered dinosaurs (Open Your Eyes, The Ladder, Fly From Here, Heaven & Earth)), while the remaining one, Drama, under performed when it came out, was forgotten by the band for twenty-eight years, and was from an era less than one year long), only three current members have recorded together as Yes at the same time, and they’ve played virtually nothing new since 2012.  Indeed, from 1969 until 2008 Yes has never toured a lineup that did not also release an album, but Yes2016 is third Yes lineup since 2011 with no album to its name.  Yes2016 has no members from the 1960s, one member from the 1970s (the era that defined the band), one guy from 1980, none from the 1980s (the era when the band had a resurgence), one guy from 1997, one from 2014, and one from 2016.  Clearly, Yes2016 is unprecedented in its near total lack of connection to Yes history, and it’s claim to the name on grounds that are other than legal or by intertia is extremely tenuous.

So, what conclusions should be reached about Yes2016?  Well, it clearly has the legal right to the name.  No one denies that.  It also is the band that has inherited the name through the inertia of history, but are legality and inertia enough to, spiritually/philosophically/existentially/ontologically make Yes2016 actually Yes?

Well, if personnel was the standard, it really is impossible to say Yes2016 is “spiritually (etc)” Yes.  Even with White still in the band, the lineup had been so watered down and disconnected it is really impossible to say that Yes2015 (Howe, White, Davison, Downes, Sherwood) is Yes judging solely on its lineup let alone, as even White’s addition still leaves the band with no original members, YesWest with only one guy remaining, and the big three albums (The Yes Album, Fragile, Close to the Edge) with one only guy remaining; can two out of five really be considered the same band?  Ironically, Yes2016 has more in common with Asia than Yes as three of the members of Yes2016 have been in Asia and have strong connections to that band (and, in the case of Downes and Schellen, they have stronger connections to Asia than Yes).

What about the concerts?  Well this cuts both ways.  On one hand, Yes2016 is playing the music at a level unseen in Yes since at least 2004.  Unfortunately, reintroducing White to the band will lower its quality at this point as he is getting too old to play at the level required by Yes.  This is not a criticism –  people get old! – just an observation (as an aside, I hope Yes moves to two drummers if/when White returns ala The Moody Blues).  So, sound wise, Yes2016 is reestablishing and maintaining the quality virtuoso playing fans have come to expect from Yes.  In the alternative, the set lists Yes has played since its reunion in 2008 have been focused on “classic” material.  I give the band a pass for the years 2008 – 2011 as they were getting back on track after a four year hiatus and trying to right the ship after Anderson’s departure.  2011 – 2012 were good years for the set list as it had a lot of new material.  Unfortunately, since 2012, the set list has almost exclusively featured music from the 1970 – 1980 era (aside from that, they only play “Owner of a Lonely Heart” from the 1980s occasionally, in 2014 they played three songs from Heaven & Earth (and only two songs per show), and “Nine Voices” from 1999 has been played three or four times total since Sherwood rejoined in June 2015).  So, as far as set lists showing a band looking to the future and trying new things and being on the front lines of innovation, Yes’s recent set lists are a huge disappointment.  Instead, the set lists reflect a band reveling in nostalgia and enjoying its back catalogue from its golden era.  Now, there really is nothing wrong with that, but that is not, historically, how Yes has functioned.  Yes has always been creative and pushing boundaries, and not backward looking relying on old material and old glories.  The band’s sets over the last four years are those heavy on exploring and celebrating its legacy as opposed to being a continuing creative force, and that is a change for Yes.  This would not really cause an existential crisis if Yes’s core remained (it may show the band becoming a nostalgia act – which is another issue – but it would still be the band), but this focus on the past is especially jarring when one realizes that virtually no one in the band originally recorded and toured the music it is now playing.  A band playing music few to none of its members wrote or recorded is typically called a tribute band.  Set lists featuring music from The Yes Album, Fragile, Close to the Edge contain music recorded and toured by only one member of Yes, and, awkwardly, the inclusion of “Time and a Word” (or even “Owner of a Lonely Heart” at this point) is to include a song no one in the band recorded.  Only the recent addition of Drama to the set list provides music that three of the current members played originally (when White was in the band at least that is.  Now that he is out (for now) only two members can claim music from Drama).  Two members is the maximum number of members who originally recorded together on any given song for Yes2016.  This issue also touches on the above issue, that Yes2016 has extremely thin connection to Yes history: they cannot come up with a set list that features more than two members right now!  So, based on the set lists, it is difficult to say that they reflect the spirit and tradition of Yes of pushing boundaries and looking to the future.  Instead, they reveal a band that show a band living in nostalgia and off of an amazing legacy.

So, is Yes2016 actually – spiritually/ontologically/(etc) – really, Yes?  Well, it all depends on how the future unfolds.  As it stands now, I reluctantly and sadly say, no it is not.  The membership of Yes2016 is too disconnected to Yes history.  It’s set lists are too orientated toward nostalgia.  Now, this does not mean that one cannot enjoy Yes2016 or that its shows are bad or anything of the sort.  I thought the show I saw on July 31, 2106 (see here) was fantastic and I have loved hearing the classics, especially those I have never heard live before.  Yes2016 is an amazing testament to Yes and its legacy and more than does justice to Yes and its music.  It is the ultimate tribute group and it is truly respectful to both the music and the fans.  I love seeing them and I hope to continue to see and enjoy them for as long as they perform.   Yes2016 would be a great way for the band to play out its final years as a worthy tribute to nearly fifty years of the best of progressive rock.

Alternatively, Yes could turn a corner.  It could be argued that the “essence” of Yes is more than its mere members and is able to be passed on from one generation to another.  If so, then the disconnection of the current lineup from Yes history is not as determinative as I suggest above.  I am more than open to this idea.  As it stands now, Sherwood is the personally selected (and, in my mind, natural) successor to Squire.  Davison was chosen by Howe and Squire to replace Anderson, and Davison is an amazing musician, singer, and song writer who embodies the spirituality introduced to Yes by Anderson.  Squire and classic keyboardist Rick Wakeman have often spoken of their hope that Yes becomes like an orchestra where its “essence” transcends its members and can continue on for generations to come (for example, see here).  If the traditional members of Yes give the newer guys their blessing and imprimatur, and the new members fully embrace the creative, innovative, forward thinking progressive philosophy that Yes historically has had, then Yes2016 (and what could follow it) could reasonably, legitimately, and credibly claim the Yes name.  Yes2016 (and what could follow it), if it was to be the legitimate heir to the Yes name, must establish itself as a creative force.  It must make new music and feature that music, that music must be in the spirit respectful of the Yes heritage, and this new music must be the focus in its shows as it paves the way for the future and continued development of the band and its music.  Without new music, a band calling itself Yes into the future will be nothing more than an authorized tribute act playing old music which its members did not write or record and thus with which have no connection.

So, time will tell and the future could be the graceful sending off of an historically great band, or it could be the turning of the page into a new era of great progressive rock in the Yes tradition.

As an aside, Anderson-Rabin-Wakeman (“ARW”) will be debuting soon and how that band relates to Yes and its history remains to be seen; ARW may be the true successor to Yes, or, in the alternative, they may just be touring and playing as a tribute to their collective pasts.  It remains to be seen.  ARW has a founder, the most important keyboardist in Yes history (Rick Wakeman), and the leader of their 1980s resurgence (Trevor Rabin) as members.  So, from personnel alone, they have just as strong of a claim to the name as Yes2016 does.  I am seeing ARW on October 16, 2016 and I will communicate my thoughts on them in this blog after the show.  Ideally, I hope they can, sometime soon, merge with Yes as ABWH merged with Yes back in 1990 or so (see here).

So, for now, as Asia once said, “Only Time Will Tell.”

Long live Yes!

(The title of this post is taken from the lyrics of the Yessong “Big Generator.”)

How American Politics Went Insane

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in The Atlantic which, I thought, really provided an insightful and well reasoned perspective into how the American political system has arrived where we are now in 2016.  Be edified.

________________

It happened gradually—and until the U.S. figures out how to treat the problem, it will only get worse.

It’s 2020, four years from now. The campaign is under way to succeed the president, who is retiring after a single wretched term. Voters are angrier than ever—at politicians, at compromisers, at the establishment. Congress and the White House seem incapable of working together on anything, even when their interests align. With lawmaking at a standstill, the president’s use of executive orders and regulatory discretion has reached a level that Congress views as dictatorial—not that Congress can do anything about it, except file lawsuits that the divided Supreme Court, its three vacancies unfilled, has been unable to resolve.

On Capitol Hill, Speaker Paul Ryan resigned after proving unable to pass a budget, or much else. The House burned through two more speakers and one “acting” speaker, a job invented following four speakerless months. The Senate, meanwhile, is tied in knots by wannabe presidents and aspiring talk-show hosts, who use the chamber as a social-media platform to build their brands by obstructing—well, everything. The Defense Department is among hundreds of agencies that have not been reauthorized, the government has shut down three times, and, yes, it finally happened: The United States briefly defaulted on the national debt, precipitating a market collapse and an economic downturn. No one wanted that outcome, but no one was able to prevent it.

As the presidential primaries unfold, Kanye West is leading a fractured field of Democrats. The Republican front-runner is Phil Robertson, of Duck Dynasty fame. Elected governor of Louisiana only a few months ago, he is promising to defy the Washington establishment by never trimming his beard. Party elders have given up all pretense of being more than spectators, and most of the candidates have given up all pretense of party loyalty. On the debate stages, and everywhere else, anything goes.

I could continue, but you get the gist. Yes, the political future I’ve described is unreal. But it is also a linear extrapolation of several trends on vivid display right now. Astonishingly, the 2016 Republican presidential race has been dominated by a candidate who is not, in any meaningful sense, a Republican. According to registration records, since 1987 Donald Trump has been a Republican, then an independent, then a Democrat, then a Republican, then “I do not wish to enroll in a party,” then a Republican; he has donated to both parties; he has shown loyalty to and affinity for neither. The second-place candidate, Republican Senator Ted Cruz, built his brand by tearing down his party’s: slurring the Senate Republican leader, railing against the Republican establishment, and closing the government as a career move.
Former presidential hopeful Jeb Bush called Donald Trump “a chaos candidate.” Unfortunately for Bush, Trump’s supporters didn’t mind. They liked that about him. (Charles Rex Arbogast / AP)

The Republicans’ noisy breakdown has been echoed eerily, albeit less loudly, on the Democratic side, where, after the early primaries, one of the two remaining contestants for the nomination was not, in any meaningful sense, a Democrat. Senator Bernie Sanders was an independent who switched to nominal Democratic affiliation on the day he filed for the New Hampshire primary, only three months before that election. He surged into second place by winning independents while losing Democrats. If it had been up to Democrats to choose their party’s nominee, Sanders’s bid would have collapsed after Super Tuesday. In their various ways, Trump, Cruz, and Sanders are demonstrating a new principle: The political parties no longer have either intelligible boundaries or enforceable norms, and, as a result, renegade political behavior pays.

Political disintegration plagues Congress, too. House Republicans barely managed to elect a speaker last year. Congress did agree in the fall on a budget framework intended to keep the government open through the election—a signal accomplishment, by today’s low standards—but by April, hard-line conservatives had revoked the deal, thereby humiliating the new speaker and potentially causing another shutdown crisis this fall. As of this writing, it’s not clear whether the hard-liners will push to the brink, but the bigger point is this: If they do, there is not much that party leaders can do about it.

And here is the still bigger point: The very term party leaders has become an anachronism. Although Capitol Hill and the campaign trail are miles apart, the breakdown in order in both places reflects the underlying reality that there no longer is any such thing as a party leader. There are only individual actors, pursuing their own political interests and ideological missions willy-nilly, like excited gas molecules in an overheated balloon.

No wonder Paul Ryan, taking the gavel as the new (and reluctant) House speaker in October, complained that the American people “look at Washington, and all they see is chaos. What a relief to them it would be if we finally got our act together.” No one seemed inclined to disagree. Nor was there much argument two months later when Jeb Bush, his presidential campaign sinking, used the c-word in a different but equally apt context. Donald Trump, he said, is “a chaos candidate, and he’d be a chaos president.” Unfortunately for Bush, Trump’s supporters didn’t mind. They liked that about him.
In their different ways, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have demonstrated that the major political parties no longer have intelligible boundaries or enforceable norms. (Charlie Neibergall / AP)

Trump, however, didn’t cause the chaos. The chaos caused Trump. What we are seeing is not a temporary spasm of chaos but a chaos syndrome.

Chaos syndrome is a chronic decline in the political system’s capacity for self-organization. It begins with the weakening of the institutions and brokers—political parties, career politicians, and congressional leaders and committees—that have historically held politicians accountable to one another and prevented everyone in the system from pursuing naked self-interest all the time. As these intermediaries’ influence fades, politicians, activists, and voters all become more individualistic and unaccountable. The system atomizes. Chaos becomes the new normal—both in campaigns and in the government itself.

Our intricate, informal system of political intermediation, which took many decades to build, did not commit suicide or die of old age; we reformed it to death. For decades, well-meaning political reformers have attacked intermediaries as corrupt, undemocratic, unnecessary, or (usually) all of the above. Americans have been busy demonizing and disempowering political professionals and parties, which is like spending decades abusing and attacking your own immune system. Eventually, you will get sick.

The disorder has other causes, too: developments such as ideological polarization, the rise of social media, and the radicalization of the Republican base. But chaos syndrome compounds the effects of those developments, by impeding the task of organizing to counteract them. Insurgencies in presidential races and on Capitol Hill are nothing new, and they are not necessarily bad, as long as the governing process can accommodate them. Years before the Senate had to cope with Ted Cruz, it had to cope with Jesse Helms. The difference is that Cruz shut down the government, which Helms could not have done had he even imagined trying.

Like many disorders, chaos syndrome is self-reinforcing. It causes governmental dysfunction, which fuels public anger, which incites political disruption, which causes yet more governmental dysfunction. Reversing the spiral will require understanding it. Consider, then, the etiology of a political disease: the immune system that defended the body politic for two centuries; the gradual dismantling of that immune system; the emergence of pathogens capable of exploiting the new vulnerability; the symptoms of the disorder; and, finally, its prognosis and treatment.

Immunity
Why the political class is a good thing

The Founders knew all too well about chaos. It was the condition that brought them together in 1787 under the Articles of Confederation. The central government had too few powers and powers of the wrong kinds, so they gave it more powers, and also multiple power centers. The core idea of the Constitution was to restrain ambition and excess by forcing competing powers and factions to bargain and compromise.

The Framers worried about demagogic excess and populist caprice, so they created buffers and gatekeepers between voters and the government. Only one chamber, the House of Representatives, would be directly elected. A radical who wanted to get into the Senate would need to get past the state legislature, which selected senators; a usurper who wanted to seize the presidency would need to get past the Electoral College, a convocation of elders who chose the president; and so on.

They were visionaries, those men in Philadelphia, but they could not foresee everything, and they made a serious omission. Unlike the British parliamentary system, the Constitution makes no provision for holding politicians accountable to one another. A rogue member of Congress can’t be “fired” by his party leaders, as a member of Parliament can; a renegade president cannot be evicted in a vote of no confidence, as a British prime minister can. By and large, American politicians are independent operators, and they became even more independent when later reforms, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, neutered the Electoral College and established direct election to the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell proved unable to rein in Ted Cruz. (Tom Williams / CQ Roll Call / Getty)

The Constitution makes no mention of many of the essential political structures that we take for granted, such as political parties and congressional committees. If the Constitution were all we had, politicians would be incapable of getting organized to accomplish even routine tasks. Every day, for every bill or compromise, they would have to start from scratch, rounding up hundreds of individual politicians and answering to thousands of squabbling constituencies and millions of voters. By itself, the Constitution is a recipe for chaos.

So Americans developed a second, unwritten constitution. Beginning in the 1790s, politicians sorted themselves into parties. In the 1830s, under Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren, the parties established patronage machines and grass-roots bases. The machines and parties used rewards and the occasional punishment to encourage politicians to work together. Meanwhile, Congress developed its seniority and committee systems, rewarding reliability and establishing cooperative routines. Parties, leaders, machines, and congressional hierarchies built densely woven incentive structures that bound politicians into coherent teams. Personal alliances, financial contributions, promotions and prestige, political perks, pork-barrel spending, endorsements, and sometimes a trip to the woodshed or the wilderness: All of those incentives and others, including some of dubious respectability, came into play. If the Constitution was the system’s DNA, the parties and machines and political brokers were its RNA, translating the Founders’ bare-bones framework into dynamic organizations and thus converting conflict into action.

The informal constitution’s intermediaries have many names and faces: state and national party committees, county party chairs, congressional subcommittees, leadership pacs, convention delegates, bundlers, and countless more. For purposes of this essay, I’ll call them all middlemen, because all of them mediated between disorganized swarms of politicians and disorganized swarms of voters, thereby performing the indispensable task that the great political scientist James Q. Wilson called “assembling power in the formal government.”

The middlemen could be undemocratic, high-handed, devious, secretive. But they had one great virtue: They brought order from chaos. They encouraged coordination, interdependency, and mutual accountability. They discouraged solipsistic and antisocial political behavior. A loyal, time-serving member of Congress could expect easy renomination, financial help, promotion through the ranks of committees and leadership jobs, and a new airport or research center for his district. A turncoat or troublemaker, by contrast, could expect to encounter ostracism, marginalization, and difficulties with fund-raising. The system was hierarchical, but it was not authoritarian. Even the lowliest precinct walker or officeholder had a role and a voice and could expect a reward for loyalty; even the highest party boss had to cater to multiple constituencies and fend off periodic challengers.

Parties, machines, and hacks may not have been pretty, but at their best they did their job so well that the country forgot why it needed them. Politics seemed almost to organize itself, but only because the middlemen recruited and nurtured political talent, vetted candidates for competence and loyalty, gathered and dispensed money, built bases of donors and supporters, forged coalitions, bought off antagonists, mediated disputes, brokered compromises, and greased the skids to turn those compromises into law. Though sometimes arrogant, middlemen were not generally elitist. They excelled at organizing and representing unsophisticated voters, as Tammany Hall famously did for the working-class Irish of New York, to the horror of many Progressives who viewed the Irish working class as unfit to govern or even to vote.

The old machines were inclusive only by the standards of their day, of course. They were bad on race—but then, so were Progressives such as Woodrow Wilson. The more intrinsic hazard with middlemen and machines is the ever-present potential for corruption, which is a real problem. On the other hand, overreacting to the threat of corruption by stamping out influence-peddling (as distinct from bribery and extortion) is just as harmful. Political contributions, for example, look unseemly, but they play a vital role as political bonding agents. When a party raised a soft-money donation from a millionaire and used it to support a candidate’s campaign (a common practice until the 2002 McCain-Feingold law banned it in federal elections), the exchange of favors tied a knot of mutual accountability that linked candidate, party, and donor together and forced each to think about the interests of the others. Such transactions may not have comported with the Platonic ideal of democracy, but in the real world they did much to stabilize the system and discourage selfish behavior.

Middlemen have a characteristic that is essential in politics: They stick around. Because careerists and hacks make their living off the system, they have a stake in assembling durable coalitions, in retaining power over time, and in keeping the government in functioning order. Slash-and-burn protests and quixotic ideological crusades are luxuries they can’t afford. Insurgents and renegades have a role, which is to jolt the system with new energy and ideas; but professionals also have a role, which is to safely absorb the energy that insurgents unleash. Think of them as analogous to antibodies and white blood cells, establishing and patrolling the barriers between the body politic and would-be hijackers on the outside. As with biology, so with politics: When the immune system works, it is largely invisible. Only when it breaks down do we become aware of its importance.

Vulnerability
How the war on middlemen left America defenseless

Beginning early in the 20th century, and continuing right up to the present, reformers and the public turned against every aspect of insider politics: professional politicians, closed-door negotiations, personal favors, party bosses, financial ties, all of it. Progressives accused middlemen of subverting the public interest; populists accused them of obstructing the people’s will; conservatives accused them of protecting and expanding big government.

To some extent, the reformers were right. They had good intentions and valid complaints. Back in the 1970s, as a teenager in the post-Watergate era, I was on their side. Why allow politicians ever to meet behind closed doors? Sunshine is the best disinfectant! Why allow private money to buy favors and distort policy making? Ban it and use Treasury funds to finance elections! It was easy, in those days, to see that there was dirty water in the tub. What was not so evident was the reason the water was dirty, which was the baby. So we started reforming.

We reformed the nominating process. The use of primary elections instead of conventions, caucuses, and other insider-dominated processes dates to the era of Theodore Roosevelt, but primary elections and party influence coexisted through the 1960s; especially in congressional and state races, party leaders had many ways to influence nominations and vet candidates. According to Jon Meacham, in his biography of George H. W. Bush, here is how Bush’s father, Prescott Bush, got started in politics: “Samuel F. Pryor, a top Pan Am executive and a mover in Connecticut politics, called Prescott to ask whether Bush might like to run for Congress. ‘If you would,’ Pryor said, ‘I think we can assure you that you’ll be the nominee.’ ” Today, party insiders can still jawbone a little bit, but, as the 2016 presidential race has made all too clear, there is startlingly little they can do to influence the nominating process.

Primary races now tend to be dominated by highly motivated extremists and interest groups, with the perverse result of leaving moderates and broader, less well-organized constituencies underrepresented. According to the Pew Research Center, in the first 12 presidential-primary contests of 2016, only 17 percent of eligible voters participated in Republican primaries, and only 12 percent in Democratic primaries. In other words, Donald Trump seized the lead in the primary process by winning a mere plurality of a mere fraction of the electorate. In off-year congressional primaries, when turnout is even lower, it’s even easier for the tail to wag the dog. In the 2010 Delaware Senate race, Christine “I am not a witch” O’Donnell secured the Republican nomination by winning just a sixth of the state’s registered Republicans, thereby handing a competitive seat to the Democrats. Surveying congressional primaries for a 2014 Brookings Institution report, the journalists Jill Lawrence and Walter Shapiro observed: “The universe of those who actually cast primary ballots is small and hyper-partisan, and rewards candidates who hew to ideological orthodoxy.” By contrast, party hacks tend to shop for candidates who exert broad appeal in a general election and who will sustain and build the party’s brand, so they generally lean toward relative moderates and team players.

Parties, machines, and hacks may not have been pretty, but they did their job—so well that the country forgot why it needed them.

Moreover, recent research by the political scientists Jamie L. Carson and Jason M. Roberts finds that party leaders of yore did a better job of encouraging qualified mainstream candidates to challenge incumbents. “In congressional districts across the country, party leaders were able to carefully select candidates who would contribute to the collective good of the ticket,” Carson and Roberts write in their 2013 book, Ambition, Competition, and Electoral Reform: The Politics of Congressional Elections Across Time. “This led to a plentiful supply of quality candidates willing to enter races, since the potential costs of running and losing were largely underwritten by the party organization.” The switch to direct primaries, in which contenders generally self-recruit and succeed or fail on their own account, has produced more oddball and extreme challengers and thereby made general elections less competitive. “A series of reforms that were intended to create more open and less ‘insider’ dominated elections actually produced more entrenched politicians,” Carson and Roberts write. The paradoxical result is that members of Congress today are simultaneously less responsive to mainstream interests and harder to dislodge.

Was the switch to direct public nomination a net benefit or drawback? The answer to that question is subjective. But one effect is not in doubt: Institutionalists have less power than ever before to protect loyalists who play well with other politicians, or who take a tough congressional vote for the team, or who dare to cross single-issue voters and interests; and they have little capacity to fend off insurgents who owe nothing to anybody. Walled safely inside their gerrymandered districts, incumbents are insulated from general-election challenges that might pull them toward the political center, but they are perpetually vulnerable to primary challenges from extremists who pull them toward the fringes. Everyone worries about being the next Eric Cantor, the Republican House majority leader who, in a shocking upset, lost to an unknown Tea Partier in his 2014 primary. Legislators are scared of voting for anything that might increase the odds of a primary challenge, which is one reason it is so hard to raise the debt limit or pass a budget.

In March, when Republican Senator Jerry Moran of Kansas told a Rotary Club meeting that he thought President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee deserved a Senate hearing, the Tea Party Patriots immediately responded with what has become activists’ go-to threat: “It’s this kind of outrageous behavior that leads Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund activists and supporters to think seriously about encouraging Dr. Milton Wolf”—a physician and Tea Party activist—“to run against Sen. Moran in the August GOP primary.” (Moran hastened to issue a statement saying that he would oppose Obama’s nominee regardless.) Purist issue groups often have the whip hand now, and unlike the elected bosses of yore, they are accountable only to themselves and are able merely to prevent legislative action, not to organize it.

We reformed political money. Starting in the 1970s, large-dollar donations to candidates and parties were subject to a tightening web of regulations. The idea was to reduce corruption (or its appearance) and curtail the power of special interests—certainly laudable goals. Campaign-finance rules did stop some egregious transactions, but at a cost: Instead of eliminating money from politics (which is impossible), the rules diverted much of it to private channels. Whereas the parties themselves were once largely responsible for raising and spending political money, in their place has arisen a burgeoning ecology of deep-pocketed donors, super pacs, 501(c)(4)s, and so-called 527 groups that now spend hundreds of millions of dollars each cycle. The result has been the creation of an array of private political machines across the country: for instance, the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity and Karl Rove’s American Crossroads on the right, and Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate on the left.

Private groups are much harder to regulate, less transparent, and less accountable than are the parties and candidates, who do, at the end of the day, have to face the voters. Because they thrive on purism, protest, and parochialism, the outside groups are driving politics toward polarization, extremism, and short-term gain. “You may win or lose, but at least you have been intellectually consistent—your principles haven’t been defeated,” an official with Americans for Prosperity told The Economist in October 2014. The parties, despite being called to judgment by voters for their performance, face all kinds of constraints and regulations that the private groups don’t, tilting the playing field against them. “The internal conversation we’ve been having is ‘How do we keep state parties alive?’ ” the director of a mountain-state Democratic Party organization told me and Raymond J. La Raja recently for a Brookings Institution report. Republicans told us the same story. “We believe we are fighting for our lives in the current legal and judicial framework, and the super pacs and (c)(4)s really present a direct threat to the state parties’ existence,” a southern state’s Republican Party director said.

The state parties also told us they can’t begin to match the advertising money flowing from outside groups and candidates. Weakened by regulations and resource constraints, they have been reduced to spectators, while candidates and groups form circular firing squads and alienate voters. At the national level, the situation is even more chaotic—and ripe for exploitation by a savvy demagogue who can make himself heard above the din, as Donald Trump has so shrewdly proved.

We reformed Congress. For a long time, seniority ruled on Capitol Hill. To exercise power, you had to wait for years, and chairs ran their committees like fiefs. It was an arrangement that hardly seemed either meritocratic or democratic. Starting with a rebellion by the liberal post-Watergate class in the ’70s, and then accelerating with the rise of Newt Gingrich and his conservative revolutionaries in the ’90s, the seniority and committee systems came under attack and withered. Power on the Hill has flowed both up to a few top leaders and down to individual members. Unfortunately, the reformers overlooked something important: Seniority and committee spots rewarded teamwork and loyalty, they ensured that people at the top were experienced, and they harnessed hundreds of middle-ranking members of Congress to the tasks of legislating. Compounding the problem, Gingrich’s Republican revolutionaries, eager to prove their anti-Washington bona fides, cut committee staffs by a third, further diminishing Congress’s institutional horsepower.
Smoke-filled rooms were good for brokering complex compromises in which nothing was settled until everything was settled.

Congress’s attempts to replace hierarchies and middlemen with top-down diktat and ad hoc working groups have mostly failed. More than perhaps ever before, Congress today is a collection of individual entrepreneurs and pressure groups. In the House, disintermediation has shifted the balance of power toward a small but cohesive minority of conservative Freedom Caucus members who think nothing of wielding their power against their own leaders. Last year, as House Republicans struggled to agree on a new speaker, the conservatives did not blush at demanding “the right to oppose their leaders and vote down legislation without repercussions,” as Time magazine reported. In the Senate, Ted Cruz made himself a leading presidential contender by engaging in debt-limit brinkmanship and deriding the party’s leadership, going so far as to call Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar on the Senate floor. “The rhetoric—and confrontational stance—are classic Cruz,” wrote Burgess Everett in Politico last October: “Stake out a position to the right of where his leaders will end up, criticize them for ignoring him and conservative grass-roots voters, then use the ensuing internecine fight to stoke his presidential bid.” No wonder his colleagues detest him. But Cruz was doing what makes sense in an age of maximal political individualism, and we can safely bet that his success will inspire imitation.

We reformed closed-door negotiations. As recently as the early 1970s, congressional committees could easily retreat behind closed doors and members could vote on many bills anonymously, with only the final tallies reported. Federal advisory committees, too, could meet off the record. Understandably, in the wake of Watergate, those practices came to be viewed as suspect. Today, federal law, congressional rules, and public expectations have placed almost all formal deliberations and many informal ones in full public view. One result is greater transparency, which is good. But another result is that finding space for delicate negotiations and candid deliberations can be difficult. Smoke-filled rooms, whatever their disadvantages, were good for brokering complex compromises in which nothing was settled until everything was settled; once gone, they turned out to be difficult to replace. In public, interest groups and grandstanding politicians can tear apart a compromise before it is halfway settled.

Despite promising to televise negotiations over health-care reform, President Obama went behind closed doors with interest groups to put the package together; no sane person would have negotiated in full public view. In 2013, Congress succeeded in approving a modest bipartisan budget deal in large measure because the House and Senate Budget Committee chairs were empowered to “figure it out themselves, very, very privately,” as one Democratic aide told Jill Lawrence for a 2015 Brookings report. TV cameras, recorded votes, and public markups do increase transparency, but they come at the cost of complicating candid conversations. “The idea that Washington would work better if there were TV cameras monitoring every conversation gets it exactly wrong,” the Democratic former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle wrote in 2014, in his foreword to the book City of Rivals. “The lack of opportunities for honest dialogue and creative give-and-take lies at the root of today’s dysfunction.”

We reformed pork. For most of American history, a principal goal of any member of Congress was to bring home bacon for his district. Pork-barrel spending never really cost very much, and it helped glue Congress together by giving members a kind of currency to trade: You support my pork, and I’ll support yours. Also, because pork was dispensed by powerful appropriations committees with input from senior congressional leaders, it provided a handy way for the leadership to buy votes and reward loyalists. Starting in the ’70s, however, and then snowballing in the ’90s, the regular appropriations process broke down, a casualty of reforms that weakened appropriators’ power, of “sunshine laws” that reduced their autonomy, and of polarization that complicated negotiations. Conservatives and liberals alike attacked pork-barreling as corrupt, culminating in early 2011, when a strange-bedfellows coalition of Tea Partiers and progressives banned earmarking, the practice of dropping goodies into bills as a way to attract votes—including, ironically, votes for politically painful spending reductions.

Congress has not passed all its annual appropriations bills in 20 years, and more than $300 billion a year in federal spending goes out the door without proper authorization. Routine business such as passing a farm bill or a surface-transportation bill now takes years instead of weeks or months to complete. Today two-thirds of federal-program spending (excluding interest on the national debt) runs on formula-driven autopilot. This automatic spending by so-called entitlement programs eludes the discipline of being regularly voted on, dwarfs old-fashioned pork in magnitude, and is so hard to restrain that it’s often called the “third rail” of politics. The political cost has also been high: Congressional leaders lost one of their last remaining tools to induce followership and team play. “Trying to be a leader where you have no sticks and very few carrots is dang near impossible,” the Republican former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott told CNN in 2013, shortly after renegade Republicans pointlessly shut down the government. “Members don’t get anything from you and leaders don’t give anything. They don’t feel like you can reward them or punish them.”

Donald Trump had no political debts or party loyalty. And he had no compunctions—which made him the perfect vector for anti-establishment sentiment.

Like campaign contributions and smoke-filled rooms, pork is a tool of democratic governance, not a violation of it. It can be used for corrupt purposes but also, very often, for vital ones. As the political scientist Diana Evans wrote in a 2004 book, Greasing the Wheels: Using Pork Barrel Projects to Build Majority Coalitions in Congress, “The irony is this: pork barreling, despite its much maligned status, gets things done.” In 1964, to cite one famous example, Lyndon Johnson could not have passed his landmark civil-rights bill without support from House Republican leader Charles Halleck of Indiana, who named his price: a nasa research grant for his district, which LBJ was glad to provide. Just last year, Republican Senator John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was asked how his committee managed to pass bipartisan authorization bills year after year, even as the rest of Congress ground to a legislative standstill. In part, McCain explained, it was because “there’s a lot in there for members of the committees.”

Party-dominated nominating processes, soft money, congressional seniority, closed-door negotiations, pork-barrel spending—put each practice under a microscope in isolation, and it seems an unsavory way of doing political business. But sweep them all away, and one finds that business is not getting done at all. The political reforms of the past 40 or so years have pushed toward disintermediation—by favoring amateurs and outsiders over professionals and insiders; by privileging populism and self-expression over mediation and mutual restraint; by stripping middlemen of tools they need to organize the political system. All of the reforms promote an individualistic, atomized model of politics in which there are candidates and there are voters, but there is nothing in between. Other, larger trends, to be sure, have also contributed to political disorganization, but the war on middlemen has amplified and accelerated them.

Pathogens
Donald Trump and other viruses

By the beginning of this decade, the political system’s organic defenses against outsiders and insurgents were visibly crumbling. All that was needed was for the right virus to come along and exploit the opening. As it happened, two came along.

In 2009, on the heels of President Obama’s election and the economic-bailout packages, angry fiscal conservatives launched the Tea Party insurgency and watched, somewhat to their own astonishment, as it swept the country. Tea Partiers shared some of the policy predilections of loyal Republican partisans, but their mind-set was angrily anti-establishment. In a 2013 Pew Research poll, more than 70 percent of them disapproved of Republican leaders in Congress. In a 2010 Pew poll, they had rejected compromise by similar margins. They thought nothing of mounting primary challenges against Republican incumbents, and they made a special point of targeting Republicans who compromised with Democrats or even with Republican leaders. In Congress, the Republican House leadership soon found itself facing a GOP caucus whose members were too worried about “getting primaried” to vote for the compromises necessary to govern—or even to keep the government open. Threats from the Tea Party and other purist factions often outweigh any blandishments or protection that leaders can offer.

So far the Democrats have been mostly spared the anti-compromise insurrection, but their defenses are not much stronger. Molly Ball recently reported for The Atlantic’s Web site on the Working Families Party, whose purpose is “to make Democratic politicians more accountable to their liberal base through the asymmetric warfare party primaries enable, much as the conservative movement has done to Republicans.” Because African Americans and union members still mostly behave like party loyalists, and because the Democratic base does not want to see President Obama fail, the Tea Party trick hasn’t yet worked on the left. But the Democrats are vulnerable structurally, and the anti-compromise virus is out there.

A second virus was initially identified in 2002, by the University of Nebraska at Lincoln political scientists John R. Hibbing and Elizabeth Theiss-Morse, in their book Stealth Democracy: Americans’ Beliefs About How Government Should Work. It’s a shocking book, one whose implications other scholars were understandably reluctant to engage with. The rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, however, makes confronting its thesis unavoidable.

Using polls and focus groups, Hibbing and Theiss-Morse found that between 25 and 40 percent of Americans (depending on how one measures) have a severely distorted view of how government and politics are supposed to work. I think of these people as “politiphobes,” because they see the contentious give-and-take of politics as unnecessary and distasteful. Specifically, they believe that obvious, commonsense solutions to the country’s problems are out there for the plucking. The reason these obvious solutions are not enacted is that politicians are corrupt, or self-interested, or addicted to unnecessary partisan feuding. Not surprisingly, politiphobes think the obvious, commonsense solutions are the sorts of solutions that they themselves prefer. But the more important point is that they do not acknowledge that meaningful policy disagreement even exists. From that premise, they conclude that all the arguing and partisanship and horse-trading that go on in American politics are entirely unnecessary. Politicians could easily solve all our problems if they would only set aside their craven personal agendas.

If politicians won’t do the job, then who will? Politiphobes, according to Hibbing and Theiss-Morse, believe policy should be made not by messy political conflict and negotiations but by ensids: empathetic, non-self-interested decision makers. These are leaders who will step forward, cast aside cowardly politicians and venal special interests, and implement long-overdue solutions. ensids can be politicians, technocrats, or autocrats—whatever works. Whether the process is democratic is not particularly important.

Chances are that politiphobes have been out there since long before Hibbing and Theiss-Morse identified them in 2002. Unlike the Tea Party or the Working Families Party, they aren’t particularly ideological: They have popped up left, right, and center. Ross Perot’s independent presidential candidacies of 1992 and 1996 appealed to the idea that any sensible businessman could knock heads together and fix Washington. In 2008, Barack Obama pandered to a center-left version of the same fantasy, promising to magically transcend partisan politics and implement the best solutions from both parties.
“Pork” can be a vital tool of democratic governance.

No previous outbreak, however, compares with the latest one, which draws unprecedented virulence from two developments. One is a steep rise in antipolitical sentiment, especially on the right. According to polling by Pew, from 2007 to early 2016 the percentage of Americans saying they would be less likely to vote for a presidential candidate who had been an elected official in Washington for many years than for an outsider candidate more than doubled, from 15 percent to 31 percent. Republican opinion has shifted more sharply still: The percentage of Republicans preferring “new ideas and a different approach” over “experience and a proven record” almost doubled in just the six months from March to September of 2015.

The other development, of course, was Donald Trump, the perfect vector to concentrate politiphobic sentiment, intensify it, and inject it into presidential politics. He had too much money and free media to be spent out of the race. He had no political record to defend. He had no political debts or party loyalty. He had no compunctions. There was nothing to restrain him from sounding every note of the politiphobic fantasy with perfect pitch.

Democrats have not been immune, either. Like Trump, Bernie Sanders appealed to the antipolitical idea that the mere act of voting for him would prompt a “revolution” that would somehow clear up such knotty problems as health-care coverage, financial reform, and money in politics. Like Trump, he was a self-sufficient outsider without customary political debts or party loyalty. Like Trump, he neither acknowledged nor cared—because his supporters neither acknowledged nor cared—that his plans for governing were delusional.

Trump, Sanders, and Ted Cruz have in common that they are political sociopaths—meaning not that they are crazy, but that they don’t care what other politicians think about their behavior and they don’t need to care. That three of the four final presidential contenders in 2016 were political sociopaths is a sign of how far chaos syndrome has gone. The old, mediated system selected such people out. The new, disintermediated system seems to be selecting them in.

Symptoms
The disorder that exacerbates all other disorders

There is nothing new about political insurgencies in the United States—nor anything inherently wrong with them. Just the opposite, in fact: Insurgencies have brought fresh ideas and renewed participation to the political system since at least the time of Andrew Jackson.

There is also nothing new about insiders losing control of the presidential nominating process. In 1964 and 1972, to the dismay of party regulars, nominations went to unelectable candidates—Barry Goldwater for the Republicans in 1964 and George McGovern for the Democrats in 1972—who thrilled the parties’ activist bases and went on to predictably epic defeats. So it’s tempting to say, “Democracy is messy. Insurgents have fair gripes. Incumbents should be challenged. Who are you, Mr. Establishment, to say the system is broken merely because you don’t like the people it is pushing forward?”

The problem is not, however, that disruptions happen. The problem is that chaos syndrome wreaks havoc on the system’s ability to absorb and channel disruptions. Trying to quash political disruptions would probably only create more of them. The trick is to be able to govern through them.

Leave aside the fact that Goldwater and McGovern, although ideologues, were estimable figures within their parties. (McGovern actually co-chaired a Democratic Party commission that rewrote the nominating rules after 1968, opening the way for his own campaign.) Neither of them, either as senator or candidate, wanted to or did disrupt the ordinary workings of government.

Jason Grumet, the president of the Bipartisan Policy Center and the author of City of Rivals, likes to point out that within three weeks of Bill Clinton’s impeachment by the House of Representatives, the president was signing new laws again. “While they were impeaching him they were negotiating, they were talking, they were having committee hearings,” Grumet said in a recent speech. “And so we have to ask ourselves, what is it that not long ago allowed our government to metabolize the aggression that is inherent in any pluralistic society and still get things done?”

I have been covering Washington since the early 1980s, and I’ve seen a lot of gridlock. Sometimes I’ve been grateful for gridlock, which is an appropriate outcome when there is no working majority for a particular policy. For me, however, 2011 brought a wake-up call. The system was failing even when there was a working majority. That year, President Obama and Republican House Speaker John Boehner, in intense personal negotiations, tried to clinch a budget agreement that touched both parties’ sacred cows, curtailing growth in the major entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security by hundreds of billions of dollars and increasing revenues by $800 billion or more over 10 years, as well as reducing defense and nondefense discretionary spending by more than $1 trillion. Though it was less grand than previous budgetary “grand bargains,” the package represented the kind of bipartisan accommodation that constitutes the federal government’s best and perhaps only path to long-term fiscal stability.

Former House Speaker John Boehner explained to Jay Leno before he resigned: “You learn that a leader without followers is simply a man taking a walk.” (Steve Helber / AP)

People still debate why the package fell apart, and there is blame enough to go around. My own reading at the time, however, concurred with Matt Bai’s postmortem in The New York Times: Democratic leaders could have found the rank-and-file support they needed to pass the bargain, but Boehner could not get the deal past conservatives in his own caucus. “What’s undeniable, despite all the furious efforts to peddle a different story,” Bai wrote, “is that Obama managed to persuade his closest allies to sign off on what he wanted them to do, and Boehner didn’t, or couldn’t.” We’ll never know, but I believe that the kind of budget compromise Boehner and Obama tried to shake hands on, had it reached a vote, would have passed with solid majorities in both chambers and been signed into law. The problem was not polarization; it was disorganization. A latent majority could not muster and assert itself.

As soon became apparent, Boehner’s 2011 debacle was not a glitch but part of an emerging pattern. Two years later, the House’s conservative faction shut down the government with the connivance of Ted Cruz, the very last thing most Republicans wanted to happen. When Boehner was asked by Jay Leno why he had permitted what the speaker himself called a “very predictable disaster,” he replied, rather poignantly: “When I looked up, I saw my colleagues going this way. You learn that a leader without followers is simply a man taking a walk.”

Boehner was right. Washington doesn’t have a crisis of leadership; it has a crisis of followership. One can argue about particulars, and Congress does better on some occasions than on others. Overall, though, minority factions and veto groups are becoming ever more dominant on Capitol Hill as leaders watch their organizational capacity dribble away. Helpless to do much more than beg for support, and hostage to his own party’s far right, an exhausted Boehner finally gave up and quit last year. Almost immediately, his heir apparent, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, was shot to pieces too. No wonder Paul Ryan, in his first act as speaker, remonstrated with his own colleagues against chaos.

Nevertheless, by spring the new speaker was bogged down. “Almost six months into the job, Ryan and his top lieutenants face questions about whether the Wisconsin Republican’s tenure atop the House is any more effective than his predecessor,” Politico’s Web site reported in April. The House Republican Conference, an unnamed Republican told Politico, is “unwhippable and unleadable. Ryan is as talented as you can be: There’s nobody better. But even he can’t do anything. Who could?”

Of course, Congress’s incompetence makes the electorate even more disgusted, which leads to even greater political volatility. In a Republican presidential debate in March, Ohio Governor John Kasich described the cycle this way: The people, he said, “want change, and they keep putting outsiders in to bring about the change. Then the change doesn’t come … because we’re putting people in that don’t understand compromise.” Disruption in politics and dysfunction in government reinforce each other. Chaos becomes the new normal.

Being a disorder of the immune system, chaos syndrome magnifies other problems, turning political head colds into pneumonia. Take polarization. Over the past few decades, the public has become sharply divided across partisan and ideological lines. Chaos syndrome compounds the problem, because even when Republicans and Democrats do find something to work together on, the threat of an extremist primary challenge funded by a flood of outside money makes them think twice—or not at all. Opportunities to make bipartisan legislative advances slip away.

Neurotic hatred of the political class is the country’s last universally acceptable form of bigotry.

Or take the new technologies that are revolutionizing the media. Today, a figure like Trump can reach millions through Twitter without needing to pass network‑TV gatekeepers or spend a dime. A figure like Sanders can use the Internet to reach millions of donors without recourse to traditional fund-raising sources. Outside groups, friendly and unfriendly alike, can drown out political candidates in their own races. (As a frustrated Cruz told a supporter about outside groups ostensibly backing his presidential campaign, “I’m left to just hope that what they say bears some resemblance to what I actually believe.”) Disruptive media technologies are nothing new in American politics; they have arisen periodically since the early 19th century, as the historian Jill Lepore noted in a February article in The New Yorker. What is new is the system’s difficulty in coping with them. Disintermediating technologies bring fresh voices into the fray, but they also bring atomization and cacophony. To organize coherent plays amid swarms of attack ads, middlemen need to be able to coordinate the fund-raising and messaging of candidates and parties and activists—which is what they are increasingly hard-pressed to do.

Assembling power to govern a sprawling, diverse, and increasingly divided democracy is inevitably hard. Chaos syndrome makes it all the harder. For Democrats, the disorder is merely chronic; for the Republican Party, it is acute. Finding no precedent for what he called Trump’s hijacking of an entire political party, Jon Meacham went so far as to tell Joe Scarborough in The Washington Post that George W. Bush might prove to be the last Republican president.

Nearly everyone panned party regulars for not stopping Trump much earlier, but no one explained just how the party regulars were supposed to have done that. Stopping an insurgency requires organizing a coalition against it, but an incapacity to organize is the whole problem. The reality is that the levers and buttons parties and political professionals might once have pulled and pushed had long since been disconnected.

Prognosis and Treatment
Chaos syndrome as a psychiatric disorder

I don’t have a quick solution to the current mess, but I do think it would be easy, in principle, to start moving in a better direction. Although returning parties and middlemen to anything like their 19th-century glory is not conceivable—or, in today’s America, even desirable—strengthening parties and middlemen is very doable. Restrictions inhibiting the parties from coordinating with their own candidates serve to encourage political wildcatting, so repeal them. Limits on donations to the parties drive money to unaccountable outsiders, so lift them. Restoring the earmarks that help grease legislative success requires nothing more than a change in congressional rules. And there are all kinds of ways the parties could move insiders back to the center of the nomination process. If they wanted to, they could require would-be candidates to get petition signatures from elected officials and county party chairs, or they could send unbound delegates to their conventions (as several state parties are doing this year), or they could enhance the role of middlemen in a host of other ways.

Building party machines and political networks is what career politicians naturally do, if they’re allowed to do it. So let them. I’m not talking about rigging the system to exclude challengers or prevent insurgencies. I’m talking about de-rigging the system to reduce its pervasive bias against middlemen. Then they can do their job, thereby making the world safe for challengers and insurgencies.

Unfortunately, although the mechanics of de-rigging are fairly straightforward, the politics of it are hard. The public is wedded to an anti-establishment narrative. The political-reform community is invested in direct participation, transparency, fund-raising limits on parties, and other elements of the anti-intermediation worldview. The establishment, to the extent that there still is such a thing, is demoralized and shattered, barely able to muster an argument for its own existence.

But there are optimistic signs, too. Liberals in the campaign-finance-reform community are showing new interest in strengthening the parties. Academics and commentators are getting a good look at politics without effective organizers and cohesive organizations, and they are terrified. On Capitol Hill, conservatives and liberals alike are on board with restoring regular order in Congress. In Washington, insiders have had some success at reorganizing and pushing back. No Senate Republican was defeated by a primary challenger in 2014, in part because then–Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a machine politician par excellence, created a network of business allies to counterpunch against the Tea Party.

The biggest obstacle, I think, is the general public’s reflexive, unreasoning hostility to politicians and the process of politics. Neurotic hatred of the political class is the country’s last universally acceptable form of bigotry. Because that problem is mental, not mechanical, it really is hard to remedy.

In March, a Trump supporter told The New York Times, “I want to see Trump go up there and do damage to the Republican Party.” Another said, “We know who Donald Trump is, and we’re going to use Donald Trump to either take over the G.O.P. or blow it up.” That kind of anti-establishment nihilism deserves no respect or accommodation in American public life. Populism, individualism, and a skeptical attitude toward politics are all healthy up to a point, but America has passed that point. Political professionals and parties have many shortcomings to answer for—including, primarily on the Republican side, their self-mutilating embrace of anti-establishment rhetoric—but relentlessly bashing them is no solution. You haven’t heard anyone say this, but it’s time someone did: Our most pressing political problem today is that the country abandoned the establishment, not the other way around.

Originally published in the July/August 2016 issue of The Atlantic and can be seen here.

The (Unemployment Compensation) Benefits of Not Minding One’s Own Business

The discernment of who is or who is not an independent contractor for the purposes of unemployment compensation has become more refined per the recent Commonwealth Court matter of Staffmore v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review, 92 A.3d 844 (Pa.Cmwlth. 2014).

The Claimant for unemployment compensation benefits went through a series of appeals and reversals until he found himself before Commonwealth Court. The Claimant was found ineligible for benefits by the Unemployment Compensation Service Center, but that decision was reversed after an appeal to, and hearing before, an unemployment compensation Referee. The Employer appealed to the Unemployed Compensation Board of Review which reversed the Referee’s decision. The Claimant filed for reconsideration which resulted in reversal of the Board’s decision. That decision was reversed after the Employer filed for reconsideration. However, after reviewing the case again, the Board found in favor of the Claimant, which led to the Employer appealing to the Commonwealth Court.

The Employer is a staffing service which provides workers to agencies for the care of children. Claimant worked for the Employer as therapeutic support staff. He was free to accept or reject clients, he signed an independent contract agreement, he was supervised by a behavioral specialist, who was not an employee of Employer but developed a treatment plan Claimant was obliged to follow. Claimant only worked seven (7) hours per week providing services for a single client. Claimant worked in the education field while he also worked for the Employer. Eventually, Claimant’s client no longer needed further services and Claimant subsequently advised the Employer that he would not accept any further assignments from the Employer.

It was uncontested that Claimant was free from the Employer’s control. The only issue before the Court was whether Claimant was customarily engaged in an independently-established trade, occupation, profession and/or business. If he was, he would be ineligible for unemployment compensation benefits as he would be an independent contractor. Of course, the Court made it clear that unemployment compensation law is to be construed and applied liberally in order to ensure the broadest possible availability of benefits.

In its review of the case law, the Court noted that a worker is an independent contractor only if he is in business for himself. To that end, he must be customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession, or business. The Court was clear that the Employer bears the burden to supply evidence of Claimant’s engagement in an independent business.

Although the Claimant was free from the control of the Employer, he testified that he was never, at any relevant time, customarily engaged in the business of providing therapeutic support. Claimant testified that his primary source of income, and indeed his chosen field, was working in education, not as therapeutic support staff, and never held himself out as being available for employment by anyone else other than Employer. Significantly, the Employer provided no evidence that Claimant provided comparable services to any other business or entity.

Based on the above, the Court found that the Employer simply did not provide sufficient evidence to prove that Claimant was engaged in an established business; however, the Court was concerned that Claimant testified that he appeared to have quit his position with the Employer. Consequently, the Court ruled that while Claimant may be eligible for benefits as he was not self-employed, he could be ineligible due to having voluntarily quit. As a result, the Court remanded the case back to the unemployment compensation referee to elicit more information on the circumstances of Claimant’s termination of his employment with the Employer.

Originally published on December 28, 2015 in Upon Further Review and can be found here.

The 7 Biggest Problems Facing Science, According to 270 Scientists

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article that warrants posting here.  I have seen a recent proliferation of articles in respected publications pointing out, bemoaning, and/or highlighting increasing problems with the trustworthiness of the alleged findings of the contemporary scientific community.  I find these articles to be particularly interesting given how our society looks to science as a (the?) source of ultimate truths (often as a mutually exclusive alternative to spirituality).  This sort of scientism may be misplaced, and these articles delve into the pitfalls that come with such an approach.

Here are the links the other articles I posted on this subject:

Be edified.

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“Science, I had come to learn, is as political, competitive, and fierce a career as you can find, full of the temptation to find easy paths.” — Paul Kalanithi, neurosurgeon and writer (1977–2015)

Science is in big trouble. Or so we’re told.

In the past several years, many scientists have become afflicted with a serious case of doubt — doubt in the very institution of science.

As reporters covering medicine, psychology, climate change, and other areas of research, we wanted to understand this epidemic of doubt. So we sent scientists a survey asking this simple question: If you could change one thing about how science works today, what would it be and why?

We heard back from 270 scientists all over the world, including graduate students, senior professors, laboratory heads, and Fields Medalists. They told us that, in a variety of ways, their careers are being hijacked by perverse incentives. The result is bad science.

The scientific process, in its ideal form, is elegant: Ask a question, set up an objective test, and get an answer. Repeat. Science is rarely practiced to that ideal. But Copernicus believed in that ideal. So did the rocket scientists behind the moon landing.

But nowadays, our respondents told us, the process is riddled with conflict. Scientists say they’re forced to prioritize self-preservation over pursuing the best questions and uncovering meaningful truths.

“I feel torn between asking questions that I know will lead to statistical significance and asking questions that matter,” says Kathryn Bradshaw, a 27-year-old graduate student of counseling at the University of North Dakota.

Today, scientists’ success often isn’t measured by the quality of their questions or the rigor of their methods. It’s instead measured by how much grant money they win, the number of studies they publish, and how they spin their findings to appeal to the public.

Scientists often learn more from studies that fail. But failed studies can mean career death. So instead, they’re incentivized to generate positive results they can publish. And the phrase “publish or perish” hangs over nearly every decision. It’s a nagging whisper, like a Jedi’s path to the dark side.

“Over time the most successful people will be those who can best exploit the system,” Paul Smaldino, a cognitive science professor at University of California Merced, says.

To Smaldino, the selection pressures in science have favored less-than-ideal research: “As long as things like publication quantity, and publishing flashy results in fancy journals are incentivized, and people who can do that are rewarded … they’ll be successful, and pass on their successful methods to others.”

Many scientists have had enough. They want to break this cycle of perverse incentives and rewards. They are going through a period of introspection, hopeful that the end result will yield stronger scientific institutions. In our survey and interviews, they offered a wide variety of ideas for improving the scientific process and bringing it closer to its ideal form.

Before we jump in, some caveats to keep in mind: Our survey was not a scientific poll. For one, the respondents disproportionately hailed from the biomedical and social sciences and English-speaking communities.

Many of the responses did, however, vividly illustrate the challenges and perverse incentives that scientists across fields face. And they are a valuable starting point for a deeper look at dysfunction in science today.

The place to begin is right where the perverse incentives first start to creep in: the money.

Academia has a huge money problem

To do most any kind of research, scientists need money: to run studies, to subsidize lab equipment, to pay their assistants and even their own salaries. Our respondents told us that getting — and sustaining — that funding is a perennial obstacle.

Their gripe isn’t just with the quantity, which, in many fields, is shrinking. It’s the way money is handed out that puts pressure on labs to publish a lot of papers, breeds conflicts of interest, and encourages scientists to overhype their work.

In the United States, academic researchers in the sciences generally cannot rely on university funding alone to pay for their salaries, assistants, and lab costs. Instead, they have to seek outside grants. “In many cases the expectations were and often still are that faculty should cover at least 75 percent of the salary on grants,” writes John Chatham, a professor of medicine studying cardiovascular disease at University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Grants also usually expire after three or so years, which pushes scientists away from long-term projects. Yet as John Pooley, a neurobiology postdoc at the University of Bristol, points out, the biggest discoveries usually take decades to uncover and are unlikely to occur under short-term funding schemes.

Outside grants are also in increasingly short supply. In the US, the largest source of funding is the federal government, and that pool of money has been plateauing for years, while young scientists enter the workforce at a faster rate than older scientists retire.

Take the National Institutes of Health, a major funding source. Its budget rose at a fast clip through the 1990s, stalled in the 2000s, and then dipped with sequestration budget cuts in 2013. All the while, rising costs for conducting science meant that each NIH dollar purchased less and less. Last year, Congress approved the biggest NIH spending hike in a decade. But it won’t erase the shortfall.

The consequences are striking: In 2000, more than 30 percent of NIH grant applications got approved. Today, it’s closer to 17 percent. “It’s because of what’s happened in the last 12 years that young scientists in particular are feeling such a squeeze,” NIH Director Francis Collins said at the Milken Global Conference in May.

Some of our respondents said that this vicious competition for funds can influence their work. Funding “affects what we study, what we publish, the risks we (frequently don’t) take,” explains Gary Bennett a neuroscientist at Duke University. It “nudges us to emphasize safe, predictable (read: fundable) science.”

Truly novel research takes longer to produce, and it doesn’t always pay off. A National Bureau of Economic Research working paper found that, on the whole, truly unconventional papers tend to be less consistently cited in the literature. So scientists and funders increasingly shy away from them, preferring short-turnaround, safer papers. But everyone suffers from that: the NBER report found that novel papers also occasionally lead to big hits that inspire high-impact, follow-up studies.

“I think because you have to publish to keep your job and keep funding agencies happy, there are a lot of (mediocre) scientific papers out there … with not much new science presented,” writes Kaitlyn Suski, a chemistry and atmospheric science postdoc at Colorado State University.

Another worry: When independent, government, or university funding sources dry up, scientists may feel compelled to turn to industry or interest groups eager to generate studies to support their agendas.

Finally, all of this grant writing is a huge time suck, taking resources away from the actual scientific work. Tyler Josephson, an engineering graduate student at the University of Delaware, writes that many professors he knows spend 50 percent of their time writing grant proposals. “Imagine,” he asks, “what they could do with more time to devote to teaching and research?”

It’s easy to see how these problems in funding kick off a vicious cycle. To be more competitive for grants, scientists have to have published work. To have published work, they need positive (i.e., statistically significant) results. That puts pressure on scientists to pick “safe” topics that will yield a publishable conclusion — or, worse, may bias their research toward significant results.

“When funding and pay structures are stacked against academic scientists,” writes Alison Bernstein, a neuroscience postdoc at Emory University, “these problems are all exacerbated.”

Fixes for science’s funding woes

Right now there are arguably too many researchers chasing too few grants. Or, as a 2014 piece in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences put it: “The current system is in perpetual disequilibrium, because it will inevitably generate an ever-increasing supply of scientists vying for a finite set of research resources and employment opportunities.”

“As it stands, too much of the research funding is going to too few of the researchers,” writes Gordon Pennycook, a PhD candidate in cognitive psychology at the University of Waterloo. “This creates a culture that rewards fast, sexy (and probably wrong) results.”

One straightforward way to ameliorate these problems would be for governments to simply increase the amount of money available for science. (Or, more controversially, decrease the number of PhDs, but we’ll get to that later.) If Congress boosted funding for the NIH and National Science Foundation, that would take some of the competitive pressure off researchers.

But that only goes so far. Funding will always be finite, and researchers will never get blank checks to fund the risky science projects of their dreams. So other reforms will also prove necessary.

One suggestion: Bring more stability and predictability into the funding process. “The NIH and NSF budgets are subject to changing congressional whims that make it impossible for agencies (and researchers) to make long term plans and commitments,” M. Paul Murphy, a neurobiology professor at the University of Kentucky, writes. “The obvious solution is to simply make [scientific funding] a stable program, with an annual rate of increase tied in some manner to inflation.”

Another idea would be to change how grants are awarded: Foundations and agencies could fund specific people and labs for a period of time rather than individual project proposals. (The Howard Hughes Medical Institute already does this.) A system like this would give scientists greater freedom to take risks with their work.

Alternatively, researchers in the journal mBio recently called for a lottery-style system. Proposals would be measured on their merits, but then a computer would randomly choose which get funded.

“Although we recognize that some scientists will cringe at the thought of allocating funds by lottery,” the authors of the mBio piece write, “the available evidence suggests that the system is already in essence a lottery without the benefits of being random.” Pure randomness would at least reduce some of the perverse incentives at play in jockeying for money.

There are also some ideas out there to minimize conflicts of interest from industry funding. Recently, in PLOS Medicine, Stanford epidemiologist John Ioannidis suggested that pharmaceutical companies ought to pool the money they use to fund drug research, to be allocated to scientists who then have no exchange with industry during study design and execution. This way, scientists could still get funding for work crucial for drug approvals — but without the pressures that can skew results.

These solutions are by no means complete, and they may not make sense for every scientific discipline. The daily incentives facing biomedical scientists to bring new drugs to market are different from the incentives facing geologists trying to map out new rock layers. But based on our survey, funding appears to be at the root of many of the problems facing scientists, and it’s one that deserves more careful discussion.

Too many studies are poorly designed. Blame bad incentives.

Scientists are ultimately judged by the research they publish. And the pressure to publish pushes scientists to come up with splashy results, of the sort that get them into prestigious journals. “Exciting, novel results are more publishable than other kinds,” says Brian Nosek, who co-founded the Center for Open Science at the University of Virginia.

The problem here is that truly groundbreaking findings simply don’t occur very often, which means scientists face pressure to game their studies so they turn out to be a little more “revolutionary.” (Caveat: Many of the respondents who focused on this particular issue hailed from the biomedical and social sciences.)

Some of this bias can creep into decisions that are made early on: choosing whether or not to randomize participants, including a control group for comparison, or controlling for certain confounding factors but not others. (Read more on study design particulars here.)

Many of our survey respondents noted that perverse incentives can also push scientists to cut corners in how they analyze their data.

“I have incredible amounts of stress that maybe once I finish analyzing the data, it will not look significant enough for me to defend,” writes Jess Kautz, a PhD student at the University of Arizona. “And if I get back mediocre results, there’s going to be incredible pressure to present it as a good result so they can get me out the door. At this moment, with all this in my mind, it is making me wonder whether I could give an intellectually honest assessment of my own work.”

Increasingly, meta-researchers (who conduct research on research) are realizing that scientists often do find little ways to hype up their own results — and they’re not always doing it consciously. Among the most famous examples is a technique called “p-hacking,” in which researchers test their data against many hypotheses and only report those that have statistically significant results.

In a recent study, which tracked the misuse of p-values in biomedical journals, meta-researchers found “an epidemic” of statistical significance: 96 percent of the papers that included a p-value in their abstracts boasted statistically significant results.

That seems awfully suspicious. It suggests the biomedical community has been chasing statistical significance, potentially giving dubious results the appearance of validity through techniques like p-hacking — or simply suppressing important results that don’t look significant enough. Fewer studies share effect sizes (which arguably gives a better indication of how meaningful a result might be) or discuss measures of uncertainty.

“The current system has done too much to reward results,” says Joseph Hilgard, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Annenberg Public Policy Center. “This causes a conflict of interest: The scientist is in charge of evaluating the hypothesis, but the scientist also desperately wants the hypothesis to be true.”

The consequences are staggering. An estimated $200 billion — or the equivalent of 85 percent of global spending on research — is routinely wasted on poorly designed and redundant studies, according to meta-researchers who have analyzed inefficiencies in research. We know that as much as 30 percent of the most influential original medical research papers later turn out to be wrong or exaggerated.

Fixes for poor study design

Our respondents suggested that the two key ways to encourage stronger study design — and discourage positive results chasing — would involve rethinking the rewards system and building more transparency into the research process.

“I would make rewards based on the rigor of the research methods, rather than the outcome of the research,” writes Simine Vazire, a journal editor and a social psychology professor at UC Davis. “Grants, publications, jobs, awards, and even media coverage should be based more on how good the study design and methods were, rather than whether the result was significant or surprising.”

Likewise, Cambridge mathematician Tim Gowers argues that researchers should get recognition for advancing science broadly through informal idea sharing — rather than only getting credit for what they publish.

“We’ve gotten used to working away in private and then producing a sort of polished document in the form of a journal article,” Gowers said. “This tends to hide a lot of the thought process that went into making the discoveries. I’d like attitudes to change so people focus less on the race to be first to prove a particular theorem, or in science to make a particular discovery, and more on other ways of contributing to the furthering of the subject.”

When it comes to published results, meanwhile, many of our respondents wanted to see more journals put a greater emphasis on rigorous methods and processes rather than splashy results.

“I think the one thing that would have the biggest impact is removing publication bias: judging papers by the quality of questions, quality of method, and soundness of analyses, but not on the results themselves,” writes Michael Inzlicht, a University of Toronto psychology and neuroscience professor.

Some journals are already embracing this sort of research. PLOS One, for example, makes a point of accepting negative studies (in which a scientist conducts a careful experiment and finds nothing) for publication, as does the aptly named Journal of Negative Results in Biomedicine.

More transparency would also help, writes Daniel Simons, a professor of psychology at the University of Illinois. Here’s one example: ClinicalTrials.gov, a site run by the NIH, allows researchers to register their study design and methods ahead of time and then publicly record their progress. That makes it more difficult for scientists to hide experiments that didn’t produce the results they wanted. (The site now holds information for more than 180,000 studies in 180 countries.)

Similarly, the AllTrials campaign is pushing for every clinical trial (past, present, and future) around the world to be registered, with the full methods and results reported. Some drug companies and universities have created portals that allow researchers to access raw data from their trials.

The key is for this sort of transparency to become the norm rather than a laudable outlier.

Replicating results is crucial. But scientists rarely do it.

Replication is another foundational concept in science. Researchers take an older study that they want to test and then try to reproduce it to see if the findings hold up.

Testing, validating, retesting — it’s all part of a slow and grinding process to arrive at some semblance of scientific truth. But this doesn’t happen as often as it should, our respondents said. Scientists face few incentives to engage in the slog of replication. And even when they attempt to replicate a study, they often find they can’t do so. Increasingly it’s being called a “crisis of irreproducibility.”

The stats bear this out: A 2015 study looked at 83 highly cited studies that claimed to feature effective psychiatric treatments. Only 16 had ever been successfully replicated. Another 16 were contradicted by follow-up attempts, and 11 were found to have substantially smaller effects the second time around. Meanwhile, nearly half of the studies (40) had never been subject to replication at all.

More recently, a landmark study published in the journal Science demonstrated that only a fraction of recent findings in top psychology journals could be replicated. This is happening in other fields too, says Ivan Oransky, one of the founders of the blog Retraction Watch, which tracks scientific retractions.

As for the underlying causes, our survey respondents pointed to a couple of problems. First, scientists have very few incentives to even try replication. Jon-Patrick Allem, a social scientist at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, noted that funding agencies prefer to support projects that find new information instead of confirming old results.

Journals are also reluctant to publish replication studies unless “they contradict earlier findings or conclusions,” Allem writes. The result is to discourage scientists from checking each other’s work. “Novel information trumps stronger evidence, which sets the parameters for working scientists.”

The second problem is that many studies can be difficult to replicate. Sometimes their methods are too opaque. Sometimes the original studies had too few participants to produce a replicable answer. And sometimes, as we saw in the previous section, the study is simply poorly designed or outright wrong.

Again, this goes back to incentives: When researchers have to publish frequently and chase positive results, there’s less time to conduct high-quality studies with well-articulated methods.

Fixes for underreplication

Scientists need more carrots to entice them to pursue replication in the first place. As it stands, researchers are encouraged to publish new and positive results and to allow negative results to linger in their laptops or file drawers.

This has plagued science with a problem called “publication bias” — not all studies that are conducted actually get published in journals, and the ones that do tend to have positive and dramatic conclusions.

If institutions started to reward tenure positions or make hires based on the quality of a researcher’s body of work, instead of quantity, this might encourage more replication and discourage positive results chasing.

“The key that needs to change is performance review,” writes Christopher Wynder, a former assistant professor at McMaster University. “It affects reproducibility because there is little value in confirming another lab’s results and trying to publish the findings.”

The next step would be to make replication of studies easier. This could include more robust sharing of methods in published research papers. “It would be great to have stronger norms about being more detailed with the methods,” says University of Virginia’s Brian Nosek.

He also suggested more regularly adding supplements at the end of papers that get into the procedural nitty-gritty, to help anyone wanting to repeat an experiment. “If I can rapidly get up to speed, I have a much better chance of approximating the results,” he said.

Nosek has detailed other potential fixes that might help with replication — all part of his work at the Center for Open Science.

A greater degree of transparency and data sharing would enable replications, said Stanford’s John Ioannidis. Too often, anyone trying to replicate a study must chase down the original investigators for details about how the experiment was conducted.

“It is better to do this in an organized fashion with buy-in from all leading investigators in a scientific discipline,” he explained, “rather than have to try to find the investigator in each case and ask him or her in detective-work fashion about details, data, and methods that are otherwise unavailable.”

Researchers could also make use of new tools, such as open source software that tracks every version of a data set, so that they can share their data more easily and have transparency built into their workflow.

Some of our respondents suggested that scientists engage in replication prior to publication. “Before you put an exploratory idea out in the literature and have people take the time to read it, you owe it to the field to try to replicate your own findings,” says John Sakaluk, a social psychologist at the University of Victoria.

For example, he has argued, psychologists could conduct small experiments with a handful of participants to form ideas and generate hypotheses. But they would then need to conduct bigger experiments, with more participants, to replicate and confirm those hypotheses before releasing them into the world. “In doing so,” Sakaluk says, “the rest of us can have more confidence that this is something we might want to [incorporate] into our own research.”

Peer review is broken

Peer review is meant to weed out junk science before it reaches publication. Yet over and over again in our survey, respondents told us this process fails. It was one of the parts of the scientific machinery to elicit the most rage among the researchers we heard from.

Normally, peer review works like this: A researcher submits an article for publication in a journal. If the journal accepts the article for review, it’s sent off to peers in the same field for constructive criticism and eventual publication — or rejection. (The level of anonymity varies; some journals have double-blind reviews, while others have moved to triple-blind review, where the authors, editors, and reviewers don’t know who one another are.)

It sounds like a reasonable system. But numerous studies and systematic reviews have shown that peer review doesn’t reliably prevent poor-quality science from being published.

The process frequently fails to detect fraud or other problems with manuscripts, which isn’t all that surprising when you consider researchers aren’t paid or otherwise rewarded for the time they spend reviewing manuscripts. They do it out of a sense of duty — to contribute to their area of research and help advance science.

But this means it’s not always easy to find the best people to peer-review manuscripts in their field, that harried researchers delay doing the work (leading to publication delays of up to two years), and that when they finally do sit down to peer-review an article they might be rushed and miss errors in studies.

“The issue is that most referees simply don’t review papers carefully enough, which results in the publishing of incorrect papers, papers with gaps, and simply unreadable papers,” says Joel Fish, an assistant professor of mathematics at the University of Massachusetts Boston. “This ends up being a large problem for younger researchers to enter the field, since that means they have to ask around to figure out which papers are solid and which are not.”

That’s not to mention the problem of peer review bullying. Since the default in the process is that editors and peer reviewers know who the authors are (but authors don’t know who the reviews are), biases against researchers or institutions can creep in, opening the opportunity for rude, rushed, and otherwise unhelpful comments. (Just check out the popular #SixWordPeerReview hashtag on Twitter).

These issues were not lost on our survey respondents, who said peer review amounts to a broken system, which punishes scientists and diminishes the quality of publications. They want to not only overhaul the peer review process but also change how it’s conceptualized.

Fixes for peer review

On the question of editorial bias and transparency, our respondents were surprisingly divided. Several suggested that all journals should move toward double-blinded peer review, whereby reviewers can’t see the names or affiliations of the person they’re reviewing and publication authors don’t know who reviewed them. The main goal here was to reduce bias.

“We know that scientists make biased decisions based on unconscious stereotyping,” writes Pacific Northwest National University postdoc Timothy Duignan. “So rather than judging a paper by the gender, ethnicity, country, or institutional status of an author — which I believe happens a lot at the moment — it should be judged by its quality independent of those things.”

Yet others thought that more transparency, rather than less, was the answer: “While we correctly advocate for the highest level of transparency in publishing, we still have most reviews that are blinded, and I cannot know who is reviewing me,” writes Lamberto Manzoli, a professor of epidemiology and public health at the University of Chieti, in Italy. “Too many times we see very low quality reviews, and we cannot understand whether it is a problem of scarce knowledge or conflict of interest.”

Perhaps there is a middle ground. For example, eLife, a new open access journal that is rapidly rising in impact factor, runs a collaborative peer review process. Editors and peer reviewers work together on each submission to create a consolidated list of comments about a paper. The author can then reply to what the group saw as the most important issues, rather than facing the biases and whims of individual reviewers. (Oddly, this process is faster — eLife takes less time to accept papers than Nature or Cell.)

Still, those are mostly incremental fixes. Other respondents argued that we might need to radically rethink the entire process of peer review from the ground up.

“The current peer review process embraces a concept that a paper is final,” says Nosek. “The review process is [a form of] certification, and that a paper is done.” But science doesn’t work that way. Science is an evolving process, and truth is provisional. So, Nosek said, science must “move away from the embrace of definitiveness of publication.”

Some respondents wanted to think of peer review as more of a continuous process, in which studies are repeatedly and transparently updated and republished as new feedback changes them — much like Wikipedia entries. This would require some sort of expert crowdsourcing.

“The scientific publishing field — particularly in the biological sciences — acts like there is no internet,” says Lakshmi Jayashankar, a senior scientific reviewer with the federal government. “The paper peer review takes forever, and this hurts the scientists who are trying to put their results quickly into the public domain.”

One possible model already exists in mathematics and physics, where there is a long tradition of “pre-printing” articles. Studies are posted on an open website called arXiv.org, often before being peer-reviewed and published in journals. There, the articles are sorted and commented on by a community of moderators, providing another chance to filter problems before they make it to peer review.

“Posting preprints would allow scientific crowdsourcing to increase the number of errors that are caught, since traditional peer-reviewers cannot be expected to be experts in every sub-discipline,” writes Scott Hartman, a paleobiology PhD student at the University of Wisconsin.

And even after an article is published, researchers think the peer review process shouldn’t stop. They want to see more “post-publication” peer review on the web, so that academics can critique and comment on articles after they’ve been published. Sites like PubPeer and F1000Research have already popped up to facilitate that kind of post-publication feedback.

“We do this a couple of times a year at conferences,” writes Becky Clarkson, a geriatric medicine researcher at the University of Pittsburgh. “We could do this every day on the internet.”

The bottom line is that traditional peer review has never worked as well as we imagine it to — and it’s ripe for serious disruption.

Too much science is locked behind paywalls

After a study has been funded, conducted, and peer-reviewed, there’s still the question of getting it out so that others can read and understand its results.

Over and over, our respondents expressed dissatisfaction with how scientific research gets disseminated. Too much is locked away in paywalled journals, difficult and costly to access, they said. Some respondents also criticized the publication process itself for being too slow, bogging down the pace of research.

On the access question, a number of scientists argued that academic research should be free for all to read. They chafed against the current model, in which for-profit publishers put journals behind pricey paywalls.

A single article in Science will set you back $30; a year-long subscription to Cell will cost $279. Elsevier publishes 2,000 journals that can cost up to $10,000 or $20,000 a year for a subscription.

Many US institutions pay those journal fees for their employees, but not all scientists (or other curious readers) are so lucky. In a recent issue of Science, journalist John Bohannon described the plight of a PhD candidate at a top university in Iran. He calculated that the student would have to spend $1,000 a week just to read the papers he needed.

As Michael Eisen, a biologist at UC Berkeley and co-founder of the Public Library of Science (or PLOS), put it, scientific journals are trying to hold on to the profits of the print era in the age of the internet. Subscription prices have continued to climb, as a handful of big publishers (like Elsevier) have bought up more and more journals, creating mini knowledge fiefdoms.

“Large, publicly owned publishing companies make huge profits off of scientists by publishing our science and then selling it back to the university libraries at a massive profit (which primarily benefits stockholders),” Corina Logan, an animal behavior researcher at the University of Cambridge, noted. “It is not in the best interest of the society, the scientists, the public, or the research.” (In 2014, Elsevier reported a profit margin of nearly 40 percent and revenues close to $3 billion.)

“It seems wrong to me that taxpayers pay for research at government labs and universities but do not usually have access to the results of these studies, since they are behind paywalls of peer-reviewed journals,” added Melinda Simon, a postdoc microfluidics researcher at Lawrence Livermore National Lab.

Fixes for closed science

Many of our respondents urged their peers to publish in open access journals (along the lines of PeerJ or PLOS Biology). But there’s an inherent tension here. Career advancement can often depend on publishing in the most prestigious journals, like Science or Nature, which still have paywalls.

There’s also the question of how best to finance a wholesale transition to open access. After all, journals can never be entirely free. Someone has to pay for the editorial staff, maintaining the website, and so on. Right now, open access journals typically charge fees to those submitting papers, putting the burden on scientists who are already struggling for funding.

One radical step would be to abolish for-profit publishers altogether and move toward a nonprofit model. “For journals I could imagine that scientific associations run those themselves,” suggested Johannes Breuer, a postdoctoral researcher in media psychology at the University of Cologne. “If they go for online only, the costs for web hosting, copy-editing, and advertising (if needed) can be easily paid out of membership fees.”

As a model, Cambridge’s Tim Gowers has launched an online mathematics journal called Discrete Analysis. The nonprofit venture is owned and published by a team of scholars, it has no publisher middlemen, and access will be completely free for all.

Until wholesale reform happens, however, many scientists are going a much simpler route: illegally pirating papers.

Bohannon reported that millions of researchers around the world now use Sci-Hub, a site set up by Alexandra Elbakyan, a Russia-based neuroscientist, that illegally hosts more than 50 million academic papers. “As a devout pirate,” Elbakyan told us, “I think that copyright should be abolished.”

One respondent had an even more radical suggestion: that we abolish the existing peer-reviewed journal system altogether and simply publish everything online as soon as it’s done.

“Research should be made available online immediately, and be judged by peers online rather than having to go through the whole formatting, submitting, reviewing, rewriting, reformatting, resubmitting, etc etc etc that can takes years,” writes Bruno Dagnino, formerly of the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience. “One format, one platform. Judge by the whole community, with no delays.”

A few scientists have been taking steps in this direction. Rachel Harding, a genetic researcher at the University of Toronto, has set up a website called Lab Scribbles, where she publishes her lab notes on the structure of huntingtin proteins in real time, posting data as well as summaries of her breakthroughs and failures. The idea is to help share information with other researchers working on similar issues, so that labs can avoid needless overlap and learn from each other’s mistakes.

Not everyone might agree with approaches this radical; critics worry that too much sharing might encourage scientific free riding. Still, the common theme in our survey was transparency. Science is currently too opaque, research too difficult to share. That needs to change.

Science is poorly communicated to the public

“If I could change one thing about science, I would change the way it is communicated to the public by scientists, by journalists, and by celebrities,” writes Clare Malone, a postdoctoral researcher in a cancer genetics lab at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

She wasn’t alone. Quite a few respondents in our survey expressed frustration at how science gets relayed to the public. They were distressed by the fact that so many laypeople hold on to completely unscientific ideas or have a crude view of how science works.

They griped that misinformed celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow have an outsize influence over public perceptions about health and nutrition. (As the University of Alberta’s Timothy Caulfield once told us, “It’s incredible how much she is wrong about.”)

They have a point. Science journalism is often full of exaggerated, conflicting, or outright misleading claims. If you ever want to see a perfect example of this, check out “Kill or Cure,” a site where Paul Battley meticulously documents all the times the Daily Mail reported that various items — from antacids to yogurt — either cause cancer, prevent cancer, or sometimes do both.

Sometimes bad stories are peddled by university press shops. In 2015, the University of Maryland issued a press release claiming that a single brand of chocolate milk could improve concussion recovery. It was an absurd case of science hype.

Indeed, one review in BMJ found that one-third of university press releases contained either exaggerated claims of causation (when the study itself only suggested correlation), unwarranted implications about animal studies for people, or unfounded health advice.

But not everyone blamed the media and publicists alone. Other respondents pointed out that scientists themselves often oversell their work, even if it’s preliminary, because funding is competitive and everyone wants to portray their work as big and important and game-changing.

“You have this toxic dynamic where journalists and scientists enable each other in a way that massively inflates the certainty and generality of how scientific findings are communicated and the promises that are made to the public,” writes Daniel Molden, an associate professor of psychology at Northwestern University. “When these findings prove to be less certain and the promises are not realized, this just further erodes the respect that scientists get and further fuels scientists desire for appreciation.”

Fixes for better science communication

Opinions differed on how to improve this sorry state of affairs — some pointed to the media, some to press offices, others to scientists themselves.

Plenty of our respondents wished that more science journalists would move away from hyping single studies. Instead, they said, reporters ought to put new research findings in context, and pay more attention to the rigor of a study’s methodology than to the splashiness of the end results.

“On a given subject, there are often dozens of studies that examine the issue,” writes Brian Stacy of the US Department of Agriculture. “It is very rare for a single study to conclusively resolve an important research question, but many times the results of a study are reported as if they do.”

But it’s not just reporters who will need to shape up. The “toxic dynamic” of journalists, academic press offices, and scientists enabling one another to hype research can be tough to change, and many of our respondents pointed out that there were no easy fixes — though recognition was an important first step.

Some suggested the creation of credible referees that could rigorously distill the strengths and weaknesses of research. (Some variations of this are starting to pop up: The Genetic Expert News Service solicits outside experts to weigh in on big new studies in genetics and biotechnology.) Other respondents suggested that making research free to all might help tamp down media misrepresentations.

Still other respondents noted that scientists themselves should spend more time learning how to communicate with the public — a skill that tends to be under-rewarded in the current system.

“Being able to explain your work to a non-scientific audience is just as important as publishing in a peer-reviewed journal, in my opinion, but currently the incentive structure has no place for engaging the public,” writes Crystal Steltenpohl, a graduate assistant at DePaul University.

Reducing the perverse incentives around scientific research itself could also help reduce overhype. “If we reward research based on how noteworthy the results are, this will create pressure to exaggerate the results (through exploiting flexibility in data analysis, misrepresenting results, or outright fraud),” writes UC Davis’s Simine Vazire. “We should reward research based on how rigorous the methods and design are.”

Or perhaps we should focus on improving science literacy. Jeremy Johnson, a project coordinator at the Broad Institute, argued that bolstering science education could help ameliorate a lot of these problems. “Science literacy should be a top priority for our educational policy,” he said, “not an elective.

Life as a young academic is incredibly stressful

When we asked researchers what they’d fix about science, many talked about the scientific process itself, about study design or peer review. These responses often came from tenured scientists who loved their jobs but wanted to make the broader scientific project even better.

But on the flip side, we heard from a number of researchers — many of them graduate students or postdocs — who were genuinely passionate about research but found the day-to-day experience of being a scientist grueling and unrewarding. Their comments deserve a section of their own.

Today, many tenured scientists and research labs depend on small armies of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers to perform their experiments and conduct data analysis.

These grad students and postdocs are often the primary authors on many studies. In a number of fields, such as the biomedical sciences, a postdoc position is a prerequisite before a researcher can get a faculty-level position at a university.

This entire system sits at the heart of modern-day science. (A new card game called Lab Wars pokes fun at these dynamics.)

But these low-level research jobs can be a grind. Postdocs typically work long hours and are relatively low-paid for their level of education — salaries are frequently pegged to stipends set by NIH National Research Service Award grants, which start at $43,692 and rise to $47,268 in year three.

Postdocs tend to be hired on for one to three years at a time, and in many institutions they are considered contractors, limiting their workplace protections. We heard repeatedly about extremely long hours and limited family leave benefits.

“Oftentimes this is problematic for individuals in their late 20s and early to mid-30s who have PhDs and who may be starting families while also balancing a demanding job that pays poorly,” wrote one postdoc, who asked for anonymity.

This lack of flexibility tends to disproportionately affect women — especially women planning to have families — which helps contribute to gender inequalities in research. (A 2012 paper found that female job applicants in academia are judged more harshly and are offered less money than males.) “There is very little support for female scientists and early-career scientists,” noted another postdoc.

“There is very little long-term financial security in today’s climate, very little assurance where the next paycheck will come from,” wrote William Kenkel, a postdoctoral researcher in neuroendocrinology at Indiana University. “Since receiving my PhD in 2012, I left Chicago and moved to Boston for a post-doc, then in 2015 I left Boston for a second post-doc in Indiana. In a year or two, I will move again for a faculty job, and that’s if I’m lucky. Imagine trying to build a life like that.”

This strain can also adversely affect the research that young scientists do. “Contracts are too short term,” noted another researcher. “It discourages rigorous research as it is difficult to obtain enough results for a paper (and hence progress) in two to three years. The constant stress drives otherwise talented and intelligent people out of science also.”

Because universities produce so many PhDs but have way fewer faculty jobs available, many of these postdoc researchers have limited career prospects. Some of them end up staying stuck in postdoc positions for five or 10 years or more.

“In the biomedical sciences,” wrote the first postdoc quoted above, “each available faculty position receives applications from hundreds or thousands of applicants, putting immense pressure on postdocs to publish frequently and in high impact journals to be competitive enough to attain those positions.”

Many young researchers pointed out that PhD programs do fairly little to train people for careers outside of academia. “Too many [PhD] students are graduating for a limited number of professor positions with minimal training for careers outside of academic research,” noted Don Gibson, a PhD candidate studying plant genetics at UC Davis.

Laura Weingartner, a graduate researcher in evolutionary ecology at Indiana University, agreed: “Few universities (specifically the faculty advisors) know how to train students for anything other than academia, which leaves many students hopeless when, inevitably, there are no jobs in academia for them.”

Add it up and it’s not surprising that we heard plenty of comments about anxiety and depression among both graduate students and postdocs. “There is a high level of depression among PhD students,” writes Gibson. “Long hours, limited career prospects, and low wages contribute to this emotion.”

A 2015 study at the University of California Berkeley found that 47 percent of PhD students surveyed could be considered depressed. The reasons for this are complex and can’t be solved overnight. Pursuing academic research is already an arduous, anxiety-ridden task that’s bound to take a toll on mental health.

But as Jennifer Walker explored recently at Quartz, many PhD students also feel isolated and unsupported, exacerbating those issues.

Fixes to keep young scientists in science

We heard plenty of concrete suggestions. Graduate schools could offer more generous family leave policies and child care for graduate students. They could also increase the number of female applicants they accept in order to balance out the gender disparity.

But some respondents also noted that workplace issues for grad students and postdocs were inseparable from some of the fundamental issues facing science that we discussed earlier. The fact that university faculty and research labs face immense pressure to publish — but have limited funding — makes it highly attractive to rely on low-paid postdocs.

“There is little incentive for universities to create jobs for their graduates or to cap the number of PhDs that are produced,” writes Weingartner. “Young researchers are highly trained but relatively inexpensive sources of labor for faculty.”

Some respondents also pointed to the mismatch between the number of PhDs produced each year and the number of academic jobs available.

A recent feature by Julie Gould in Nature explored a number of ideas for revamping the PhD system. One idea is to split the PhD into two programs: one for vocational careers and one for academic careers. The former would better train and equip graduates to find jobs outside academia.

This is hardly an exhaustive list. The core point underlying all these suggestions, however, was that universities and research labs need to do a better job of supporting the next generation of researchers. Indeed, that’s arguably just as important as addressing problems with the scientific process itself. Young scientists, after all, are by definition the future of science.

Weingartner concluded with a sentiment we saw all too frequently: “Many creative, hard-working, and/or underrepresented scientists are edged out of science because of these issues. Not every student or university will have all of these unfortunate experiences, but they’re pretty common. There are a lot of young, disillusioned scientists out there now who are expecting to leave research.”

Science is not doomed.

For better or worse, it still works. Look no further than the novel vaccines to prevent Ebola, the discovery of gravitational waves, or new treatments for stubborn diseases. And it’s getting better in many ways. See the work of meta-researchers who study and evaluate research — a field that has gained prominence over the past 20 years.

But science is conducted by fallible humans, and it hasn’t been human-proofed to protect against all our foibles. The scientific revolution began just 500 years ago. Only over the past 100 has science become professionalized. There is still room to figure out how best to remove biases and align incentives.

To that end, here are some broad suggestions:

One: Science has to acknowledge and address its money problem. Science is enormously valuable and deserves ample funding. But the way incentives are set up can distort research.

Right now, small studies with bold results that can be quickly turned around and published in journals are disproportionately rewarded. By contrast, there are fewer incentives to conduct research that tackles important questions with robustly designed studies over long periods of time. Solving this won’t be easy, but it is at the root of many of the issues discussed above.

Two: Science needs to celebrate and reward failure. Accepting that we can learn more from dead ends in research and studies that failed would alleviate the “publish or perish” cycle. It would make scientists more confident in designing robust tests and not just convenient ones, in sharing their data and explaining their failed tests to peers, and in using those null results to form the basis of a career (instead of chasing those all-too-rare breakthroughs).

Three: Science has to be more transparent. Scientists need to publish the methods and findings more fully, and share their raw data in ways that are easily accessible and digestible for those who may want to reanalyze or replicate their findings.

There will always be waste and mediocre research, but as Stanford’s Ioannidis explains in a recent paper, a lack of transparency creates excess waste and diminishes the usefulness of too much research.

Again and again, we also heard from researchers, particularly in social sciences, who felt that their cognitive biases in their own work, influenced by pressures to publish and advance their careers, caused science to go off the rails. If more human-proofing and de-biasing were built into the process — through stronger peer review, cleaner and more consistent funding, and more transparency and data sharing — some of these biases could be mitigated.

These fixes will take time, grinding along incrementally — much like the scientific process itself. But the gains humans have made so far using even imperfect scientific methods would have been unimaginable 500 years ago. The gains from improving the process could prove just as staggering, if not more so.

By, Julia Belluz, Brad Plumer, and Brian Resnick and originally published on July 14, 2016 on vox.comand can be seen here.

The United Shapes of Arithmetic: We Evolved

Nathan Rudolph, my friend and fellow parishioner at St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church, has started a comic strip which I have greatly enjoyed and appreciated.  With his permission, I will repost them here after he posts them.  I think my readers will appreciate them as much as I do as they are rather insightful with a snarky edge.  Enjoy!

Here are the links to the previously posted strips:

Here is the latest strip:

Line Evolution

Yesstats Update: Post 7/31/16 show

This post is the part of my Yes concert series of posts.  I started this series here and you can read the others here.

I saw the progressive rock band Yes play at the Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania on July 31, 2016 during the their USA 2016 The Album Series Tour.  I posted a review of this show here.

As I tend to be a pedantic, borderline OCD, person, I like to statistically keep track of various aspects of the Yes shows I have seen over years.  I posted various catalogues of things regarding these shows to this blog, and after each subsequent concert I update all those posts.

The following posts have all been updated in light of the above-mentioned July 31, 2016 show:

If you keep track of these sorts of things, please share your stats in the comments section!

Enjoy!

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