Friday, September 26, 2014

To Get More Out of Science, Show the Rejected Research

In 2013, the federal government spent over $30 billion to support basic scientific research. These funds help create knowledge and stimulate greater productivity and commercial activity, but could we get an even better return on our investment? The problem is that the research conducted using federal funds is driven — and distorted — by the academic publishing model. The intense competition for space in top journals creates strong pressures for novel, statistically significant effects. As a result, studies that do not turn out as planned or find no evidence of effects claimed in previous research often go unpublished, even though their findings can be important and informative. For instance, a top psychology journal refused to consider studies that failed to replicate a disputed publication claiming to find evidence of extrasensory perception. In addition, the findings that do get published in these journals often just barely reach the statistical significance thresholds required for publication — a pattern that suggests selective reporting and publishing of results. Not surprisingly, other scientists often cannot reproduce published findings, which undermines trust in research and wastes huge amounts of time and money. These practices also create a shaky knowledge base for science, preventing scholars from effectively building on prior research. more

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