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Crisis Not As Feared

The reproducibility crisis in science may be overblown, writes Daniele Fanelli from the London School of Economics in an opinion piece appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week. The article results from a colloquium held earlier this month at the National Academy of Sciences.

Fanelli argues that despite the widespread belief that science is suffering from an increased inability to reproduce studies — a 2016 survey by Nature of more than 1,500 researchers found that 52 percent of respondents thought there was a significant reproducibility crisis, while 38 percent said there was a slight crisis — the evidence doesn't support the claim.

He says that while there is a low level of scientific misconduct and questionable research practices, it is not common enough to affect the overall scientific literature. Further, Fanelli writes that practices like p-hacking seem to have little impact on conclusions reached by meta-analyses and practices like salami slicing don't appear to be as prevalent as feared. He adds that though more papers have been retracted in recent year, the data actually suggests that is due to better retraction policies at journals.

"The new 'science is in crisis' narrative is not only empirically unsupported, but also quite obviously counterproductive. Instead of inspiring younger generations to do more and better science, it might foster in them cynicism and indifference," Fanelli warns.