Science has been in a “replication crisis” for a decade. Have we learned anything?

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Science has been in a “replication crisis” for a decade. Have we learned anything?

Bad papers are still published. But some other things might be getting better.

Kelsey Piper

Quote:This striking chart from a 2020 study by Yang Yang, Wu Youyou, and Brian Uzzi at Northwestern University illustrates their finding that actually, there is no correlation at all between whether a study will replicate and how often it is cited. “Failed papers circulate through the literature as quickly as replicating papers,” they argue...

...If scientists are pretty good at predicting whether a paper replicates, how can it be the case that they are as likely to cite a bad paper as a good one? Menard theorizes that many scientists don’t thoroughly check — or even read — papers once published, expecting that if they’re peer-reviewed, they’re fine. Bad papers are published by a peer-review process that is not adequate to catch them — and once they’re published, they are not penalized for being bad papers.

Quote:Even outright frauds often take a very long time to be repudiated, with some universities and journals dragging their feet and declining to investigate widespread misconduct.

That’s discouraging and infuriating. It suggests that the replication crisis isn’t one specific methodological reevaluation, but a symptom of a scientific system that needs rethinking on many levels. We can’t just teach scientists how to write better papers. We also need to change the fact that those better papers aren’t cited more often than bad papers; that bad papers are almost never retracted even when their errors are visible to lay readers; and that there are no consequences for bad research.

In some ways, the culture of academia actively selects for bad research. Pressure to publish lots of papers favors those who can put them together quickly — and one way to be quick is to be willing to cut corners. “Over time, the most successful people will be those who can best exploit the system,” Paul Smaldino, a cognitive science professor at the University of California Merced, told my colleague Brian Resnick.

So we have a system whose incentives keep pushing bad research even as we understand more about what makes for good research.
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell

(This post was last modified: 2021-02-16, 08:43 PM by Sciborg_S_Patel.)
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