The brewing replication crisis

Christine Clark writes:

Papers in leading psychology, economic and science journals that fail to replicate and therefore are less likely to be true are often the most cited papers in academic research, according to a new study by the University of California San Diego’s Rady School of Management.

The link between interesting findings and nonreplicable research also can explain why it is cited at a much higher rate—the authors found that papers that successfully replicate are cited 153 times less than those that failed.

This is nothing new. It has been known from a long time and has been the subject of much heated debate on several fora. A decades long experiment, for example, cooked up in a lab, cannot be replicated with the identical set of conditions. Of course, it is a very generic statement and requires validation/elucidation in your chosen field.

Many “studies” look at the same thing, albeit from a different perspective or have a different “model” to explain it “differently”. The replication crisis is superseded by the duplication crisis. Who remembers the stem cell era where everything could be explained by the “stemness” of the cancer cells? Once they found out it doesn’t exist or have no identifiable metrics to “single them out”, the research dollars dried up. It doesn’t beat logic though- if you identify their niche (or go back a few generations), you can easily target them. Why not?

Most universities have the luxury of amplifying their “research findings” through press releases and possibly written by someone attempting to eke out their existence in “science writing”. Arguably, science communication can dispel several misconceptions but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

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