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

Bill Allison allison.billiam at gmail.com
Mon Dec 21 14:33:28 UTC 2020

This may address your afterthought, David.
Why Most Published Research Findings Are False: Problems in the Analysis

On Mon, Dec 21, 2020 at 8:57 AM David Blakeway via Coral-List <
coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov> wrote:

> 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
> right
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