Overly Honest Methods

A trending hashtag on Twitter lets researchers reveal the lighter side of scientific methodology.

By | January 10, 2013

FLICKR, PLAXCO LABThis Monday (January 7) a neuroscience postdoc named Leigh started the twitter hashtag #overlyhonestmethods for researchers to confess the dark secrets behind their precise protocols. Hilarity ensued as Twitter-savvy scientists flocked to the conversation to vent the foibles and frustrations of scientific rigor.

Here’s a roundup of our favorite tweets from the conversation:


Indrayani Ghangrekar ‏@IndrayaniG
We used enzymes from NEB because the sales rep was nice and gave me free samples #overlyhonestmethods
Ben Seymour @benosaka
Blood samples were spun at 1500rpm because the centrifuge made a scary noise at higher speeds. #overlyhonestmethods
Ecological Society @ESA_org
Study site remains anonymous for confidentiality reasons but obviously it's the University where I work. #overlyhonestmethods
Kat James ‏@Kat_James
Healthy control blood was taken from a donor with informed written consent. I know they were informed because it was me.#overlyhonestmethods
Rebecca Weinberg @sciliz
the eppendorf tubes were "shaken like a polaroid picture" until that part of the song ended #overlyhonestmethods #truth
dr leigh @dr_leigh
incubation lasted three days because this is how long the undergrad forgot the experiment in the fridge #overlyhonestmethods
Bill Hooker @sennoma
pH of buffer B was adjusted with HCl. then back a bit with NaOH..then a bit more HCl. #overlyhonestmethods
dbaptista ‏@dbaptista
Samples were incubated with primary ab for exactly 1 hr, or the duration of my lunch. #overlyhonestmethods
Snarky Stuff ‏@BadPhysics
Study 3a was upgraded from double blind to triple blind when the key was lost. Correlation is left to the reviewer. #overlyhonestmethods 
We also asked you, our readers, to join into the public confessions. Here are a few of our favorite responses:
Jeff Clements ‏@biolumiJEFFence
We expanded the geographic range of our study to tropical locations because we were sick of sampling in -10 degrees #overlyhonestmethods
Science Isn't Scary ‏@sciencenotscary
Compound was determined to be air-stable when it was accidentally removed from glovebox and didn't burst into flame. #overlyhonestmethods

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Avatar of: JToeppen


Posts: 37

January 10, 2013

Science needs conjecture and hypothesis before experiments begin.  It can be useful to have open dialogue to create meaningul experiments.  Science benefits from casual conjecture prior to engaging full rigor.  Blogs are a natural way to create a critial, yet nuturing, environment for ideas.

Avatar of: polscireplicate


Posts: 1

January 10, 2013

Interestingly many tweets are directly about reproducibility of results, meaning if the 'next' researcher is able to come to the same conclusions when using your data. Ideally all journals would publish replication data, but that's often not the case. We have to trust scientists that the results are 'true' - but we can't check it.

I did a little analysis of the tweets. Since the hash tag #overlyhonestmethods went viral, I have been checking tweets for reproducibility issues. Many tweets are in some way connected: every time a researcher admits being 'creative' about getting significant results or slightly 'polishing' tables and figures, it will be harder to check or replicate their results. Some tweets, however, directly refer reproducible results.

"you can't reproduce my results because you don't know where the samples come from"

"our published code might or might not reproduce our results"

"I can't reproduce my own results"


I included all tweets that came up when searching for reproduc* among tweets between Day 1 (January 7, first tweet by dr_leigh) to January 9, 5.17pm (the method and the exact tweets are on my blog on political science replication http://wp.me/p315fp-5h )

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