Friday, 31 August 2018

Sloppy Research

Image courtesy of Frederick Burr Opper, Public Domain.

Joel Kontinen

In 2017, journal publisher Springer retracted over 100 scientific papers, prompting Live Science to begin an article with the words:

Lies, exaggerations, criminal acts, unbridled irony, alternative facts, … No, we're not talking about 2017 politics. This is the 2017 world of science.”

“This past year, hundreds of scientific papers were retracted from professional journals. In the majority of cases involving these retractions, the reason was an innocent, yet sloppy, error in the methodology of the experiment that the authors themselves caught. But for quite a few papers, the retractions reflected scientific misconduct and a not-so-innocent attempt to tweak the data — or make it up entirely.”

And Live Science didn’t mention the dog sitting on the editorial board of 7 journals.

Then there’s an episode in which a hoax Star Wars Paper on Midi-Chlorians was accepted by four journals .

Now, Philip Bell has an opinion piece in Nature: “A reproducibility effort has put high-profile journals under the spotlight by trying to replicate a slew of social-science results. In the work, published on 27 August in Nature Human Behaviour, researchers attempted to reproduce 21 social-science results reported in Science and Nature between 2010 and 2015 and were able to reproduce 62% of the findings. That’s about twice the rate achieved by an earlier effort that examined the psychology literature more generally, but the latest result still raises questions about two out of every five papers studied.”


Ball, Philip. High-profile journals put to reproducibility test. Nature Human Behaviour, (27 August).