The accusations suggest that if findings can’t be reproduced, then the initial hypothesis is largely defunct. It’s led to a number of attempts to improve matters.
One such, that I covered last year, used a prediction market to estimate the reproducibility of over 40 experiments that had gained prominence in psychology journals.
The crowd proved to be good at predicting such reproducibility, with a 71% success rate on the sample given to them.
An improvement in meta-research
Other attempts to improve things have focused on opening up the research process so that not only are failed studies published, but so to is the data used in studies.
Along these lines is a new service offered by PLOS that aims to provide a repository of research about research.
The portal was born out of a study that analyzed a tranche of papers published between 2000 and 2014. The aim of the analysis was to explore how many of these studies released supporting information to allow both for proper evaluation and also replication. This includes things like the protocols and the data used in the research.
Out of 441 studies, just one provided this full range of information, with the vast majority failing to disclose major red flags such as how they were funded or conflicts of interest.
“We hope our survey will further sensitize scientists, funders, journals and other science-related stakeholders about the need to improve these indicators,” the team say.
Sadly, such processes seem all too common, with billions wasted each year on research that can’t be reproduced. The hope is that the new PLOS portal will provide a step towards better research.
“With our new section on data-driven meta-research, we aim to highlight that research about research is an important area of science. By creating a prominent forum in this field, PLOS Biology will contribute to ongoing efforts to improve research standards in the biological sciences and beyond,” they say.
The new portal is launched complete with a number of articles that highlight a number of the key issues that are currently preventing the right approach to research, and therefore offering various ways in which it can be improved.
As a resource, hopefully it will go some way to encourage better practices, and if you have an interest in research, it’s well worth checking out.