I’ve run a number of posts taking evangelicals to task for not relying on science but instead propagating social media misinformation on the current Covid crisis in particular and any number of creation/evolution issues. But as this LA Times op-ed notes, sometimes scientists themselves contribute to the lack of trust by the public. The article states:
Science is suffering from a replication crisis. Too many landmark studies can’t be repeated in independent labs, a process crucial to separating flukes and errors from solid results. The consequences are hard to overstate: Public policy, medical treatments and the way we see the world may have been built on the shakiest of foundations.
The article points out that failure to replicate doesn’t necessarily mean misconduct on the part of the original researchers but it does call into question their conclusions, and other research that relied on them. The problem lies in the following areas:
- Studies are published with insufficient detail or lack of access to the actual data.
- Scientists care so little for replication because it doesn’t advance their careers. There is little interest on the part of scientists themselves to replicate someone else’s study when they can get credit for their own.
In 2013 scientists tried to replicate 50 high-profile studies on tumor growth. The article notes:
There are many similar cases. In 2013, scientists set out to replicate 50 high-profile studies on the biological aspects of tumor growth. They discovered that not a single one of the original published papers documenting the work reported enough information about the study methods to allow them to even attempt an independent replication. Eventually, after contacting the original authors, some researchers managed to repeat some of the experiments, with a mixed bag of results compared to the initial findings. Others among the replication researchers gave up entirely.
This is bad, folks. In fact the “Replication Crisis” has its own Wikipedia page for crying out loud. As the Wiki page notes: “In the US, science’s reproducibility crisis has become a topic of political contention, linked to the attempt to diminish regulations – e.g. of emissions of pollutants, with the argument that these regulations are based on non-reproducible science. Previous attempts with the same aim accused studies used by regulators of being non-transparent.”
This is part of the reason that distrust in “experts” has become… well… pandemic, especially during the current Covid pandemic. The “experts” bear some responsibility themselves. To my fellow scientists I say – C’mon we can and have to do better.