Researching Research

Stanford University starts new center to study how scientific research can be improved.

By Jef Akst | April 28, 2014

WIKIMEDIA, NATIONAL CANCER INSTITUTEThe recently launched Meta-Research Innovation Center (METRICS) at Stanford University aims to change how research is done. Professors of Medicine John Ioannidis and Steven Goodman will head the new center, which is funded by a $6 million grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and will host scientists from diverse fields to share their findings and discuss the challenges of performing rigorous research. The end goal is to identify common errors and biases that may be contributing to the rise in irreproducible research.

“We’re all interested in advancing excellence in research,” Ioannidis told The Chronicle of Higher Education. “It became apparent to me that these issues occurred so frequently that, maybe instead of trying to answer a single question, one should take a bird’s-eye view. What’s happening in the scientific literature in general?”

Ioannidis, who in 2005 penned the provocative PLOS Medicine article “Why most published research findings are false,” will dedicate about half of his time to the new center. In addition to identifying the problems, he and his colleagues also hope to find some solutions. Of course, he noted, researchers in the still-young field of meta-research are liable to make the same mistakes as scientists of any field, and therefore caution is required as they analyze the weaknesses in the scientific system.

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Avatar of: MikeH


Posts: 16

April 29, 2014

Common errors?  How about creating a system that ratches up competition to predictably self-destructive levels, and then defending that system against all attempts to reform it because it benefits the powers that be?  There's competition that keeps everyone sharp, then there's the eating of the young in the overcrowded rat cage.  Eventually the entire enterprise collapses.

Avatar of: Ted Steele

Ted Steele

Posts: 1

April 29, 2014

The Scientific enterprise began with highly curious men and women asking fundamental questions about the world. There was tension between all but because of the very small numbers capable of such activity ands thus their isolation the intensity level for any destructive outcome due to envy were minimal. Deliberate false theories or explanations about the world i suspect were either not occurring or at a very low level. The rise of scientific professionals in our own era in academic institutions, beginning I suppose with Gallileo raise the tensions due to envy but I think outright deception was still rare or non-existent. Over the past 50- 60 years scientific activity has been opened to the masses - yet the number of human beings capable of such activity still remains proportionately low. So the new phenomenon of out right sloppy and fraudulent work based on career progression has become a fact of life. Coupled to the forces of professional jealousy ( = envy) this is a potent cocktail particularly in a peer-review system shackled as it is to the dark forces based on envious behaviour. So yes , a over haul may be necessary - although I think the fundamental human destructive forces will be impossible to change. Moe and diverse funding sources and diverse publication outlets are the answer - and this is indeed happening in the Western world.

Helmut Schleck 'Envy: A theory of social behaviour" 1966 The Liberty Fund.

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