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Better Than Some

In his Raw Data column at the New York Times, George Johnson wonders whether some branches of science are better at addressing reproducibility issues than others. In a previous column, Johnson drew on work done by John Ioannidis that found that much of scientific findings cannot be reproduced.

A critique of the first piece at the Knight Science Journalism Tracker notes that it's unclear whether Ioannidis is referring to all scientific disciplines or, as Ioannidis is a medical doctor, medical research. Faye Flam adds at the Tracker that physicists are constrained by how atoms, particles, and light behave when they put forth new hypotheses.

In his newest column, Johnson asks Ioannidis to comment on the matter. "Physical sciences have a stronger tradition of some solid practices that improve reproducibility," Ioannidis tells him, noting that collaborative research and large consortiums are common in the physical sciences. "This certainly increases the transparency, reliability, and cross-checking of proposed research findings."

Still, Ioannidis says that even such a field likely is affect by false positives.