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Let's Try it Again

Some estimates say that more than half of biomedical research studies cannot be reproduced, writes Ivan Oransky, the global editorial director of MedPage Today and co-founder of the Retraction Watch blog, at The Conversation.

"That means that an awful lot of 'promising' results aren't very promising at all, and that a lot of researchers who could be solving critical problems based on previously published work end up just spinning their wheels," he adds.

There are a number of reasons why a study might not be reproducible, ranging from errors to missing a step in the methodology section or using bad code for statistical analysis, Oransky says. Fraud, he adds, is a less common reason.

To try to address this issue, there are programs like the Reproducibility Initiative, which has selected 50 basic cancer studies to try to validate, he says, adding that there are similar projects ongoing or just starting in psychology and the social sciences.

But, it also means that there needs to be funding for reproducibility efforts. "That means digging up additional funding, but replicating a study costs a tiny fraction of what the original work does," Oransky says. "Funding new studies based on those that turn out to be irreproducible … well, now that's expensive."