Thursday, January 03, 2013

Cleaning Up Science

Even if cases of scientific fraud and misconduct were simply ignored, my field (and several other fields of science, including medicine) would still be in turmoil. One recent examination of fifty-three medical studies found that further research was unable to replicate forty-seven of them. All too often, scientists muck about with pilot studies, and keep tweaking something until they get the result they were hoping to achieve. Unfortunately, each fresh effort increases the risk of getting the right result for the wrong reason, and winding up with a spurious vision of something that doesn’t turn out to be scientifically robust, like a cancer drug that seems to work in trials but fails to work in the real world. How on Earth are we going to do better? Here are six suggestions, drawn mainly from a just-published special issue of the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science. Two dozen articles offer valuable lessons not only for psychology, but for all consumers and producers of experimental science, from physics to neuroscience to medicine. more

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