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Changes Needed

The incentives driving science have been warped, researchers tell Vox. The news site sent a survey to researchers to ask them what one thing they would change about how science is conducted these days.

Some 270 researchers responded — mostly English-speaking biomedical and social scientists — and many told Vox that they have to "prioritize self-preservation over pursuing the best questions and uncovering meaningful truths." That means, Vox adds, that researchers have to focus on obtaining grants, publishing as many studies — largely those with positive results — as they can, and popularizing their findings.

Vox traces the issues facing science to seven factors: money, poor study design, limited study replications, flaws in peer review, publication paywalls, poor communication to the public, and the stress academics face. It further offers some broad fixes such as funding researchers who tackle long-term questions and encouraging researchers to publish more detailed descriptions of their methods and post their raw data, among others.

"These fixes will take time, grinding along incrementally — much like the scientific process itself," Vox writes. "But the gains humans have made so far using even imperfect scientific methods would have been unimaginable 500 years ago. The gains from improving the process could prove just as staggering, if not more so."

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