‘I don’t know if you want to call it a crisis,’ says Alex Holcombe, associate professor of psychology at the University of Sydney. ‘But, we do know that of the efforts to try to systematically reproduce the findings, whether they be in cancer biology, whether they be in psychology, the success rate has not been impressive.’
In 2011, a paper from Bayer Pharmaceuticals reported that the company could only reproduce the findings of a quarter of studies published about particular drug candidates. Another company, Amgen Corporation, could only reproduce 11 per cent of the cancer and blood studies they looked at. ‘This was a shocking result,’ wrote the authors of the Amgen paper.
‘All the efforts that I’ve seen, the success rate has been less than 50 per cent,’ says Holcombe. ‘Which is really sad commentary if you think about all the science and health stories let’s say the ABC reports in a month, the idea that maybe more than 50 percent of those studies, if they were redone, you’d get a different result. That’s quite disappointing.’
Perhap not so much broken as too dependent on thrills, chills, and spills to be sober enough for the key task of accumulating a body of evidence.
Good advice from article author Wendy Zuckerman:
It does highlight, however, that science does not abide by a 24 hour media cycle. So when you read news articles about miracle drugs and new diets, treatments for porn addiction, perhaps follow it up in a decade—even if it’s from a peer-reviewed journal.
That’s assuming we’ll ever see it again. Assuming a lot.
See also: Retraction Watch
If peer review is working, why all the retractions?
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