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Turned Against Them

Efforts to shed light on and address problems with reproducibility in scientific research could be co-opted by politicians who question established science or seek to limit government research funding, writes Ed Yong at the Atlantic.

He notes that it may have already begun with the HONEST Act, which the US House of Representatives recently passed. The bill requires the Environmental Protection Agency to only rely on studies whose data, methods, materials, code, and more were openly available. The University of California, Berkeley's Michael Eisen, who is also a Senate candidate, tells Yong that government agencies should endeavor to use data that's open access. But this bill would actually limit what the agency can do.

Similarly, reproducibility problems could be used as rationalization for budget cuts to funding agencies, according to Yong. Already, the Trump administration has proposed cutting 18 percent from the National Institutes of Health budget for the next fiscal year.

"The way it could get weaponized is by saying: Just stop the false stuff, keep the true stuff, and we can cut half the budget," Brian Nosek from the Center of Open Science tells Yong. "But that's like saying the roads have a lot of potholes, so we should ban driving."

Yong adds that researchers tell him that the solution may be more openness, rather sweeping the issue of reproducibility under the rug.