Quirks & Quarks

A manifesto to fight scientific one hit wonders

Because results can't be replicated scientists are no longer standing on the shoulders of giants.
An international team of published a manifesto in the journal Nature Human Behaviour on how to fix science's reproducibility problem. (AFP/Getty Images)

There's a famous quote by Sir Isaac Newton that goes, "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." This notion is about how science works. It builds upon previous research. 

But lately, some scientists have been sounding the alarm that the giants whose shoulders scientists stand upon, could actually be made of quick sand. They say there's a reproducibility crisis — that scientists haven't been able to replicate the results from many seminal studies. One analysis estimates that as much as 85 percent of biomedical research effort is wasted.

An idealized version of the hypothetico-deductive model of the scientific method is shown. Various potential threats to this model exist (indicated in red), including lack of replication, hypothesizing after the results are known (HARKing), poor study design, low statistical power, analytical flexibility, P-hacking, publication bias and lack of data sharing. Together these will serve to undermine the robustness of published research, and may also impact on the ability of science to self-correct. (Marcus R. Munafò, Brian A. Nosek, Dorothy V. M. Bishop, Katherine S. Button, Christopher D. Chambers)

So an international team of experts published a manifesto on how to counter this problem, seniored by Dr. John Ioannidis, a is a professor of medicine, health research, policy, and statistics at Stanford University in California. The manifesto was published in a recent issue of the journal Nature Human Behaviour. 

Additional Links:

  • Nature Human Behaviour paper about manifesto
  • The Atlantic story 
  • JAMA paper about issue of reproducibility