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The Crash Comes After the Flash

The combination of scientists' drive to publish in prestige journals and those journals' desire to publish eye-catching work is exacerbating the number of studies whose results turn out to be irreproducible, writes Michael Hiltzik in a column at the Los Angeles Times.

"The thing that should scare people is that so many of these important published studies turn out to be wrong when they're investigated further," the University of California, Berkeley's Michael Eisen, and a PLOS founder, tells Hiltzik.

Hiltzik traces the situation to researchers hyping their work to get published in a top journal, journals wanting flashy papers, and flaws in peer review whereby reviewer may not give manuscripts the attention they need. Both the open-access movement and the recent announcement by the National Center for Biotechnology Information to allow comments on PubMed Central aim to shake up the system, Hiltzik writes.

"The demand for sexy results, combined with indifferent follow-up, means that billions of dollars in worldwide resources devoted to finding and developing remedies for the diseases that afflict us all is being thrown down a rathole," he adds. "NIH and the rest of the scientific community are just now waking up to the realization that science has lost its way, and it may take years to get back on the right path."