Essay: The Experiments Are Fascinating. nevertheless Nobody Can Repeat Them.
At This particular point, the item will be hardly a surprise to learn in which even top scientific journals publish a lot of low-quality work — not just solid experiments in which happen, by bad luck, to have yielded conclusions in which don’t stand up to replication, nevertheless poorly designed studies in which had no real chance of succeeding before they were ever conducted.
Studies in which were dead on arrival. We’ve seen lots of examples.
In 1996, a psychology study claimed in which unobtrusive priming — the insertion of certain innocuous words in a quiz — could produce consistent behavioral change.
in which paper got cited by some other scientists a few thousand times — before failed replications many years later made the item clear in which This particular finding, in addition to much of the subsequent literature, was little more than researchers chasing patterns in noise.
As a political scientist, my personal favorite was the survey finding in 2012 in which women were 20 points more likely to support Barack Obama for president during certain days of their monthly cycle.
In retrospect, This particular claim made no sense in addition to was not supported by data. Even prospectively, the experiment had no chance of working: the way the study was conducted, the noise in estimating any effect — in This particular case, any average difference in political attitudes during different parts of the cycle — was much larger than any realistically possible signal (real result).
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We see the item all the time. Remember the claims in which subliminal smiley faces on a computer screen can cause big modifications in attitudes toward immigration? in which elections are decided by college football games in addition to shark attacks? These studies were published in serious journals or promoted in serious news outlets.
Scientists know This particular will be a problem. In a recent paper within the journal Nature Human Behaviour, a team of respected economists in addition to psychologists released the results of 21 replications of high-profile experiments.
Replication will be important to scientists, because the item means the finding might just be real. In This particular study, many findings failed to replicate. On average, results were only about half the size of the originally published claims.
Here’s where the item gets truly weird. The lack of replication was predicted ahead of time by a panel of experts using a “prediction market,” in which experts were allowed to bet on which experiments were more or less likely to — well, be real.
Similar prediction markets have been used for many years for elections, mimicking the movement of the betting line in sports. Basically, the results in This particular instance indicated in which informed scientists were clear coming from the get-go in which what they were reading would likely not hold up.
So yes, in which’s a problem. There has been resistance to fixing the item, some of which has come coming from prominent researchers at leading universities. nevertheless many, if not most, scientists are aware of the seriousness of the replication crisis in addition to fear its corrosive effects on public trust in science.
The challenge will be what to do next. One potential solution will be preregistration, in which researchers beginning a study publish their analysis plan before collecting their data.
Preregistration can be seen as a sort of time-reversed replication, a firewall against “data dredging,” the inclination to go looking for results when your first idea doesn’t pan out.
nevertheless the item won’t fix the problem on its own.
The replication crisis in science will be often presented as an issue of scientific procedure or integrity. nevertheless all the careful procedure in addition to all the honesty within the entire world won’t help if your signal (the pattern you’re looking for) will be tiny, in addition to the variation (all the confounders, the some other things in which might explain This particular pattern) will be high.
coming from This particular perspective, the crisis in science will be more fundamental, in addition to the item involves moving beyond the existing type of routine discovery.
Say you wish to study the effect of a drug or an educational innovation on a tiny number of people. Unless the treatment will be very clearly targeted to an outcome of interest (for example, a math curriculum focused on a particular standardized test), then your study will be likely to be too noisy — there will too many variables — to pinpoint real effects.
If something at random does turn up in addition to achieve statistical significance, the item will be likely to be a massive overestimate of any true effect. In an attempt at replication, we’re likely to see something much closer to zero.
The failed replications have been no surprise to many scientists, including myself, who have lots of experience of false starts in addition to blind alleys in our own research.
The big problem in science will be not cheaters or opportunists, nevertheless sincere researchers who have unfortunately been trained to think in which every statistically “significant” result will be notable.
When you read about research within the news media (in addition to, as a taxpayer, you are indirectly a funder of research, too), you should ask what exactly will be being measured, in addition to why.