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  • Writer's pictureDemetrius Colbert

In “Science” Should We Trust? The Ongoing Reproducibility Crisis

Updated: May 17

How can the scientific community know a scientific study can be trusted? How can we know that a scientist did not fabricate, exaggerate, or bias his or her results in some way so that the study would achieve the desired conclusion? Reproducibility—the ability of a different group of researchers to replicate the same study and arrive at the same results—is a key tool available to the scientific community. If a researcher fabricates or exaggerates results, or conducts bad science in some other way, for instance, then another lab attempting to conduct the same study will fail to achieve the same results as the first study. The scientific community can then see the “smoke” that often communicates a flawed study. “Replicability is the basis of all good science…. ‘When you publish a paper, it is your ethical duty to make sure other people can reproduce it,’” says Regius professor of chemistry at the University of Glasgow, Lee Cronin.1 Writing in Science, Marcia McNutt explained, “Science advances on a foundation of trusted discoveries. Reproducing an experiment is one important approach that scientists use to gain confidence in their conclusions.”2 That truth makes the acknowledged but embarrassing predicament facing the scientific community over the past decade highly concerning. McNutt continued, “Recently, the scientific community was shaken by reports that a troubling proportion of peer-reviewed preclinical studies are not reproducible.”3 In fact, the problem is so widespread across the scientific community that it is being described as a “reproducibility/replication crisis.”4 In her article titled “The Unscientific Method,” Sonia Cooke, writing in New Scientist, warned, “One obvious concern is that [flawed papers] could undermine public faith in science itself.”5 It should come as no surprise, therefore, that some scientists are expressing a frustration that, in America, there is a “crisis of faith in science.”6 Consider that many areas of science today are largely composed of naturalists, humanists, and atheists. Is that a bad thing?

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