[Bloat] Fwd: [IP] In science, irreproducible research is a quiet crisis
dave.taht at gmail.com
Sun Mar 22 13:59:24 EDT 2015
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From: Dave Farber via ip <ip at listbox.com>
Date: Sun, Mar 22, 2015 at 9:45 AM
Subject: [IP] In science, irreproducible research is a quiet crisis
To: ip <ip at listbox.com>
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From: Hendricks Dewayne <dewayne at warpspeed.com>
Date: Sun, Mar 22, 2015 at 12:29 PM
Subject: [Dewayne-Net] In science, irreproducible research is a quiet crisis
To: Multiple recipients of Dewayne-Net <dewayne-net at warpspeed.com>
[Note: This item comes from friend Bob Frankston. Bob's comment:'Why risk
jeopardizing your funding by trying to reproduce results and showing that
the money wasn’t well spent?'. DLH]
In science, irreproducible research is a quiet crisis
By Carolyn Johnson
Mar 19 2015
Even when no one’s done anything obviously wrong, scientific experiments
sometimes yield results that turn out to be incorrect. When Doug Melton’s
team at Harvard University discovered betatrophin, a hormone that could
trigger the pancreas to make beta cells lost in diabetes, their 2013 paper
was touted as a breakthrough. But when they redid the experiment and
increased the number of animals, the original result didn’t quite hold up.
The hormone’s effect was far weaker than first reported.
As so often happens, the biology at work was more complex than it
originally seemed. Melton is continuing a long list of experiments to
understand how betatrophin works. He vows to publish the results, whether
they point to a diabetes therapy or not.
To many in the scientific community, this was an example of how science
self-corrects. It was Melton’s lab, along with an outside group, that
identified the problems in the earlier work. Yet the case also exemplifies
a broader problem in the research world. The rush to celebrate “eureka”
moments often overshadows a rather mundane activity on which science
depends: repetition. Any finding needs to be “reproducible” — confirmed in
other labs — if it is to matter.
But talk to a scientist long enough, and you’ll probably hear a story like
this: An intriguing new discovery was reported in a research journal. Maybe
it was a biologist describing a new Achilles’ heel in cancer cells, a
psychologist’s profound insight into human behavior, or an astronomer’s
finding about the first moments of the universe. The scientist read about
the finding and tried to confirm it in her own lab, but the experiment just
didn’t come out the same.
Evidence of a quiet crisis in science is mounting. A growing chorus of
researchers worry that far too many findings in the top research journals
can’t be replicated. “There’s a whole groundswell of awareness that a lot
of biomedical research is not as strongly predictive as you think it would
be,” said Dr. Kevin Staley, an epilepsy researcher at Massachusetts General
Hospital. “People eventually become aware because there’s a wake of silence
after a false positive result,” he added. The same is true in every field
of science, from neuroscience to stem cells.
Ideally, science builds on and corrects itself. In practice, the incentives
facing scientists can hamper the process. It’s more exciting and
advantageous to publish a new therapeutic approach for a disease than to
revisit a past discovery. Yet unless researchers point out the limitations
of one another’s work, the scientific literature can end up cluttered with
results that are partially or, in some cases, not at all true.
Recently, researchers and the US government alike have sought to assess how
much research is irreproducible — and why — and are looking for systematic
ways to retest experiments that make headlines but yield no further
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