The Economist om den vetenskapliga processen

Samhället sätter en stor tilltro till den vetenskapliga processen och resultaten den genererar. Samtidigt finns det svagheter i vetenskapens metoder och problem med vetenskapsmännens incitamentstrukturer. Läs hela artikeln. Den är fantastisk:

In 2005 John Ioannidis, an epidemiologist from Stanford University, caused a stir with a paper showing why, as a matter of statistical logic, the idea that only one such paper in 20 gives a false-positive result was hugely optimistic. Instead, he argued, “most published research findings are probably false.” As he told the quadrennial International Congress on Peer Review and Biomedical Publication, held this September in Chicago, the problem has not gone away.
Dr Ioannidis draws his stark conclusion on the basis that the customary approach to statistical significance ignores three things: the “statistical power” of the study (a measure of its ability to avoid type II errors, false negatives in which a real signal is missed in the noise); the unlikeliness of the hypothesis being tested; and the pervasive bias favouring the publication of claims to have found something new.

Intressant nog verkar många vetenskapliga publikationer lida av samma problem som kvällstidningar:

Peer review’s multiple failings would matter less if science’s self-correction mechanism—replication—was in working order. Sometimes replications make a difference and even hit the headlines—as in the case of Thomas Herndon, a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts. He tried to replicate results on growth and austerity by two economists, Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, and found that their paper contained various errors, including one in the use of a spreadsheet.
Such headlines are rare, though, because replication is hard and thankless. Journals, thirsty for novelty, show little interest in it; though minimum-threshold journals could change this, they have yet to do so in a big way. Most academic researchers would rather spend time on work that is more likely to enhance their careers. This is especially true of junior researchers, who are aware that overzealous replication can be seen as an implicit challenge to authority. Often, only people with an axe to grind pursue replications with vigour—a state of affairs which makes people wary of having their work replicated.

Alla gillar en spännande story.