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At Nature: No more excuses for non-reproducible methods

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What’s hot? What’s not?/Niklas Bildhauer, Wikimedia

Modern technology means there is no good reason to have the problem, says a professional protocols developer:

News last month brought a powerful reminder that access to detailed methods can be essential for getting experiments to work. In 2013, the US$1.6-million Reproducibility Project: Cancer Biology set out to repeat key experiments from 50 high-profile cancer papers, and so assess the extent to which published results can be replicated. Instead, the project has decided to stop at 18 papers. One big reason for this was the difficulty of working out what exactly was done in the original experiments. Protocols — precise step-by-step recipes for repeating experiments — are missing from published research more often than not, and even the original researchers can have trouble pinpointing particulars years later.

He documents progress but adds,

But the gap between meticulous methods and adequate description remains. To fill it, efforts must start at the bench, well before results are ready to be written up. Lab members and lab heads should be on the lookout for tools that facilitate tracking, and be willing to give them a try. And decisions about how to document and share methods should be made when researchers are designing their experiments, not when they are writing their manuscripts. Lenny Teytelman, “No more excuses for non-reproducible methods” at Nature

Actually, it must start a bit earlier than that. It must start with a willingness to follow the evidence wherever it leads. More of us say that we would be happy to be proved wrong than ever actually are happy with it. Reform would also require that science culture not sideline people who played by the rules on a good idea that didn’t work out. Was it Thomas Edison who said that he had not failed; rather, he had learned thousands of ways not to make a light bulb? Which not only did not mean he was a failure — it did not even mean he wouldn’t be the first person to make the bulb the right way.

See also: Why, in many cases, you’d be a fool to “trust science” If you also think that data is a source of information, that is. And have to live in the real world.

A novel suggestion at Nature: Publish peer reviews It’s not as if inherently political topics won’t be politicized anyway. Playing with a full deck limits the types of accusations that may legitimately be made.

Why so much bullying in science? All the current accused are Top People (and all are women too, so put your red Handmaid dowdies back in the cupboard, girl… For once we are talking about something else.)


Study of causes of science skepticism sails right by the most obvious cause

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