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Has anything been learned from nearly two decades of keening about science’s replication crisis?

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As Graham Hillard explains in fact-filled article, awareness began decades ago:

Whatever their actual explanation, the failures that had dragged the hard and social sciences under the public’s microscope [by 2014] were stark indeed. According to the Reproducibility Project, a crowdsourced enterprise led by University of Virginia psychologist Brian Nosek in 2011, an attempt to replicate 100 key studies from three years prior resulted in a success rate of only 39%. Similarly distressing was the work of three Bayer scientists, that same year, examining reproducibility in oncology, women’s health, and cardiovascular disease. As stated in analyses eventually published in Nature, the Bayer team was unable to replicate nearly two-thirds of the external studies under review.

Graham Hillard, “The science crisis” at Washington Examiner (April 28, 2022)

But has anything really changed?

To name just one of the horrifying discoveries made in recent months, a meta-study published in Science Advances found that unreplicable studies in top psychology and economics journals are cited more frequently than experiments that replicate. Furthermore, “only 12% of post-replication citations of nonreplicable findings acknowledge the replication failure.”

As has been widely remarked, the reproducibility crisis is not mere inside baseball but a matter of some urgency for a liberal order under fire from both the Left and Right. Until actual science gets its house in order, hysterical worship of “The Science” will remain exactly what it is today: an implausible posture that only emboldens those who would tear down America’s institutions.

Graham Hillard, “The science crisis” at Washington Examiner (April 28, 2022)

Science is beginning to sound like the medieval church, actually. We are now moving on from keening to caterwauling. But nobody working on the inside can actually do anything about it.

Hillard is managing editor of the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

2 Replies to “Has anything been learned from nearly two decades of keening about science’s replication crisis?

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    The problem is quantity, not quality. Abolish tenure and federal funding, and the quality of the REMAINING work will improve immensely.

  2. 2
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Good article by Graham Hillard.

    Perhaps sensing that the public’s disdain for elite institutions had reached an inflection point, the professional organizations themselves leaped into action, producing a series of articles intended to address the confusion head-on.

    The replication crisis is one factor in the public’s growing disdain for elite institutions. We give academics some privileges with the expectation that they will use them for the common good. But it’s the post-modern revolutionary thread running through the academic elite that pushes them to deconstruct our culture and turn against the people they’re supposed to be educating and building up.

    Among the discipline’s gravest failures has been the collapse of implicit bias theory, which holds that closet racists will struggle to pair black and brown faces with words such as “good” in laboratory experiments.

    Using psychology to supposedly uncover the secret motives of people creates more distrust and divisiveness – but everything is built on the Marxist critique where you have to tear everything apart, supposedly, to have a purified environment in which to build your utopia. They’re good at tearing apart and not good at building anything positive.

    in 2011, an attempt to replicate 100 key studies from three years prior resulted in a success rate of only 39%

    Following this …

    According to Fanelli’s 2018 article in the peer-reviewed Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reproducibility issues are “not distorting the majority of the literature

    61% failed to replicate but that’s not a distortion of “the majority of the literature”. He’s probably saying that the 100 tested are not representative – or just avoiding the problem.

    Until actual science gets its house in order, hysterical worship of “The Science” will remain exactly what it is today: an implausible posture that only emboldens those who would tear down America’s institutions.

    We see the hysterical worship of Darwin and the Covid experts (Judicial Watch opened a lawsuit against NIH for “personal royalties paid (including, but not limited to, FY2020) to
    current and former National Institutes of Health employees for work done while they were federally employed”) which discredits the American institutions we actually should be proud of as part of our national heritage.

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