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Science

Why Published Research Findings Are Often False 453

Posted by samzenpus
from the race-to-publish dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Jonah Lehrer has an interesting article in the New Yorker reporting that all sorts of well-established, multiply confirmed findings in science have started to look increasingly uncertain as they cannot be replicated. This phenomenon doesn't yet have an official name, but it's occurring across a wide range of fields, from psychology to ecology and in the field of medicine, the phenomenon seems extremely widespread, affecting not only anti-psychotics but also therapies ranging from cardiac stents to Vitamin E and antidepressants. 'One of my mentors told me that my real mistake was trying to replicate my work,' says researcher Jonathon Schooler. 'He told me doing that was just setting myself up for disappointment.' For many scientists, the effect is especially troubling because of what it exposes about the scientific process. 'If replication is what separates the rigor of science from the squishiness of pseudoscience, where do we put all these rigorously validated findings that can no longer be proved?' writes Lehrer. 'Which results should we believe?' Francis Bacon, the early-modern philosopher and pioneer of the scientific method, once declared that experiments were essential, because they allowed us to 'put nature to the question' but it now appears that nature often gives us different answers. According to John Ioannidis, author of Why Most Published Research Findings Are False, the main problem is that too many researchers engage in what he calls 'significance chasing,' or finding ways to interpret the data so that it passes the statistical test of significance—the ninety-five-per-cent boundary invented by Ronald Fisher. 'The scientists are so eager to pass this magical test that they start playing around with the numbers, trying to find anything that seems worthy,'"
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Why Published Research Findings Are Often False

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 02, 2011 @12:34PM (#34738144)
    I remember some time in the '80s, a doctor published some "research" that claimed to show that abused children could be identified by how they reacted to a pencil shoved into their anus. Yes, really! Unfortunately, doctors think they are scientists and for the most part, they are not, so they did not properly evaluate the methods used for this "research" The real shame of this was that some doctors actually used this "method" to identify supposedly abused children, with all the attendant hurt and distress that these false accusations caused.
  • by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Sunday January 02, 2011 @12:38PM (#34738180)

    It's only lying if you do it intentionally.

    Or, as George Costanza says, "It's not a lie if YOU believe it".

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them WHAT to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. -- Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.

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