A study published in the journal Science has found that while reports published in top academic journals are often viewed as true, not many of the results can be replicated.
A research is deemed reproducible once another independent team of researchers gets the same result as that of a published experiment by religiously following the method used in the original study. The process is hailed as a crucial part of building evidence to support theories.
Angela Attwood, a psychology professor, from the University of Bristol, explained that scientific evidence is not based on the authority of the person who made the discovery. Instead, credibility relies on independent replication and elaboration of evidence and ideas.
In an international effort called the Reproducibility Project, which aimed to test how reproducibility applies to recent studies in the field of psychology, scientists tried to reproduce the results of 100 studies published in three major psychology journals and only managed to replicate 39 of these.
"A large portion of replications produced weaker evidence for the original findings despite using materials provided by the original authors, review in advance for methodological fidelity, and high statistical power to detect the original effect sizes," the researchers wrote in their report published on Aug. 28.
The finding though does not necessarily mean that the original results were incorrect and that there flaws in the scientific processes.
Study author Cody Christopherson, from Southern Oregon University, said that there are possible reasons as to why an effect found by one study cannot be replicated by another study.
Either study A's or study B's result, for instance, may be false or there could have been some small difference in the means that the two studies were conducted eventually impacting the results.
The new study may have sustained a blow to the field of psychology but many psychologists turned out relieved by the finding. Psychologists said that the authors of the new report were not critics but fellow researchers and this has important implications.
"It's like we've come clean," said Alan Kraut, from the Association for Psychological Science. "This kind of correction is something that has to happen across science, and I'm proud that psychology is leading the charge on this."
Psychologist Jonathan Schooler, from the University of California, Santa Barbara, who had two of his studied redone by others, one of which did not held up, said that when the field wants to scrutinize your results, it means that your study has some significance.
Schooler added that he was actually happy that the field of psychology adopts more rigorous accountability with scientists in the field "stepping to the plate and leading the way."
Photo: Steve Jurvetson | Flickr