Is the replicability crisis overblown? Three arguments examined

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We discuss three arguments voiced by scientists who view the current outpouring of concern about replicability as overblown. The first idea is that the adoption of a low alpha level (e.g., 5%) puts reasonable bounds on the rate at which errors can enter the published literature, making false-positive effects rare enough to be considered a minor issue. This, we point out, rests on statistical misunderstanding: The alpha level imposes no limit on the rate at which errors may arise in the literature (Ioannidis, 2005b). Second, some argue that whereas direct replication attempts are uncommon, conceptual replication attempts are common—providing an even better test of the validity of a phenomenon. We contend that performing conceptual rather than direct replication attempts interacts insidiously with publication bias, opening the door to literatures that appear to confirm the reality of phenomena that in fact do not exist. Finally, we discuss the argument that errors will eventually be pruned out of the literature if the field would just show a bit of patience. We contend that there are no plausible concrete scenarios to back up such forecasts and that what is needed is not patience, but rather systematic reforms in scientific practice.

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Type of resources: Primary Source, Reading, Paper

Education level(s): College / Upper Division (Undergraduates)

Primary user(s): Student

Subject area(s): Applied Science, Life Science, Social Science

Language(s): English