Social sciences findings shaky
The reliability of social science studies has been thrown into question, after an attempt to replicate 21 high-profile experiments yielded only 13 successful reproductions. The two-year research project centered on studies that were published between 2010 and 2015 in the highly respected journals Science and Nature. For a scientific finding to be valid, other scientists should be able to get the same result. But in many cases, the project found, researchers in the original study had a bias toward proving their theory and tended to find false positives. One example was the finding, published in 2011 and widely covered in the media, that people struggle to remember information that they think they can find online. A repeat of the experiment, however, found no such “Google effect.” Even in the successful replications of other studies, the observed effect was on average only about 75 percent as great as in the original. The journals said their publication standards had been tightened since the studies in question were published, and called for more replication projects. “You can say, ‘Oh, this is terrible, it didn’t replicate,’” Science deputy editor emeritus Barbara Jasny tells The Washington Post. “Or you could say, ‘This is the way science works. It evolves. People do more studies.’” Scientists themselves actually appear to have a good nose for flawed studies. When the researchers asked some 200 of their peers to predict which findings were suspicious, they largely guessed right.