How Could This Happen?

[From the article “A Waste of 1,000 Research Papers” by Ed Yong, published in The Atlantic]
“In 1996, a group of European researchers found that a certain gene, called SLC6A4, might influence a person’s risk of depression. It was a blockbuster discovery at the time. “
“Over two decades, this one gene inspired at least 450 research papers.”
“But a new study—the biggest and most comprehensive of its kind yet—shows that this seemingly sturdy mountain of research is actually a house of cards, built on nonexistent foundations.”
 “‘We didn’t find a smidge of evidence,’ says Matthew Keller, who led the project.”
“‘This should be a real cautionary tale,’ Keller adds. ‘How on Earth could we have spent 20 years and hundreds of millions of dollars studying pure noise?'”
“Many fields of science, from psychology to cancer biology, have been dealing with similar problems: Entire lines of research may be based on faulty results. The reasons for this so-called reproducibility crisis are manifold.”
“Beyond a few cases of outright misconduct, these practices are rarely done to deceive. They’re an almost inevitable product of an academic world that rewards scientists, above all else, for publishing papers in high-profile journals—journals that prefer flashy studies that make new discoveries over duller ones that check existing work. People are rewarded for being productive rather than being right, for building ever upward instead of checking the foundations. These incentives allow weak studies to be published. And once enough have amassed, they create a collective perception of strength that can be hard to pierce.”
To read more, click here.

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