[Coral-List] push for more reliable research in ecology

David Blakeway fathom5marineresearch at gmail.com
Mon Dec 21 10:04:21 UTC 2020

I agree this is a major problem for science. Here's a link to an
influential 2005 article concluding that most published research is false
<https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1182327/>. The argument is
based on the probability distribution of false positives in statistical
tests. We should not expect the outcome to be any better in research that
does not involve statistical tests. There are just so many ways to be
wrong. Although science is supposed to be self-correcting, correction will
only happen with the type of concerted effort that is barely possible in
today's 'hyper-productive' science (current estimates of >5000 publications
per day, increasing at 8% per year)*.

Charles Darwin had a relevant opinion:

"*False facts are highly injurious to the progress of science, for they
often endure long; but false views, if supported by some evidence, do
little harm, for everyone takes a salutary pleasure in proving their
falseness; and when this is done, one path towards error is closed and the
road to truth is often at the same time opened*."

Fair enough, but what happens when science's self-correction mechanisms are
overwhelmed? That would have to increase the likelihood of false views
becoming false facts without ever being fully tested.

The *Acanthaster *example is instructive. A significant result in a test
with n=30 would be considered pretty solid; write it up and move on. But
caution revealed something deeper. If the expected result had come first
though? Well, I don't think I'd be repeating the experiment in that
situation (especially as it's December 21 already and the lab's only
published 15 papers this year!!)

*from a quick search, these numbers are so astounding I'm not sure they're

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