These days, it is extremely easy to produce and disseminate information, which has resulted in a proliferation of information, and some pieces of data are guaranteed to contradict others. Search engines and systems have evolved to the point that almost any query will yield some sort of result. The challenge is not to find information but to find the right amount of quality, believable information. This guide introduces some things to consider when evaluating information in general, and chemical data in particular and introduces four credible sources of physical and chemical properties of substances.
It is tempting to think that all scientific information is accurate, particularly in fields like chemistry that rely on quantitative data to support conclusions; however, even the best journals issue retractions (pulling papers from circulations) when articles are discovered, after publication, to be fraudulent, inaccurate, or based on erroneous premises.
It is also tempting to think that chemical information is unbiased. After all, reactions either work or they don't, and the "data don't lie." In point of fact every piece of scientific information is biased, for two reasons.
One can apply the same questions to evaluating a piece of research that one can apply to dissecting a story or a piece of literature: who, what, where, when, why, and how. When evaluating research, however, these questions take on a slightly different meaning. You should ask yourself all six questions whenever looking at scientific information in both familiar and unfamiliar areas.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology asks the following three questions of all pieces of data.
Source: Reproduced from https://srdata.nist.gov/CeramicDataPortal/pds (Accessed June 4, 2017).
In addition, NIST offers some definitions of various types of data that can be applied to pieces of data located on a substance or phenomenon. They are presented in the order of their "authority."
Source: Reproduced from Munro, Ronald G. Data Evaluation Theory and Practice for Materials Properties, NIST Special Publication 960-11. Washington, DC: National Institute for Standards and Technology, 2003.