It's not as simple as that, for all sciences - once again an article on repeatability seems to have focused on medicinal drug research (it's usually that or psychology), and labelled the entire "Scientific community" as 'rampant' with " statistical, technical, and psychological biases".
How about, Physics?
The LHC has only been built once - it is the only accelerator we have that has seen the Higgs boson. The confirmation between ATLAS and CMS could be interpreted as merely internal cross-referencing - it is still using the same acceleration source. But everyone believes the results, and believes that they represent the Higgs. This isn't observed once in the experiment, it is observed many, many times, and very large amounts of scientists time are spent imagining, looking for, and measuring, any possible effect that could cause a distortion or bias to the data. When it costs billions to construct your experiment, sometimes reproducing the exact same thing can be hard.
The same lengths are gone to in order to find alternate explanations or interpretations of the result data. If they don't, they know that some very hard questions are going to be asked - and there will be hard questions asked anyway, especially for extraordinary claims - look at e.g. DAMA/LIBRA which for years has observed what looks like indirect evidence for dark matter, but very few people actually believe it - the results remain unexplained whilst other experiments probe the same regions in different ways.
Repetition is good, of course, but isn't a replacement for good science in the first place.
If you follow your logic, that the different experiments using the same accelerator negates the whole thing, to the extreme then doing two experiments on the same planet/solar system/universe won't be enough..
And I don't buy your inverse argument that one (good) experiment is good enough either.
It is very difficult to tell from outside the group if the experiment is actually good or not (although you probably can tell if it's bad).
Screw-ups can happen no matter how many people look at the data if there is some flaw in the experimental setup - only way to make really sure is to use different experiments to measure the same thing.
Similarly, I am not saying that you don't need to repeat - just that it isn't the be all and end all of what defines 'science'. Supporting this interpretation is that I mentioned DAMA. Nobody is accusing them of not taking care, but nobody really believes the result either.
This is, in principle, a problem. We unfortunately have no way to measure the speed of light in andromeda, unlike what we can here on earth, so we really have no idea if our astronomical models are wrong given the non-constancy of the speed of light in andromeda or elsewhere.
So, yes, in principle not being able to repeat science experiments everywhere in the universe is a problem. However, I think if one thinks a little less broadly, testing newtonian gravity in say, Italy and also in China shows at least across the Earth, the phenomenon is similar. Then, at least one can say, "certainly, gravity is the same in Italy and China, and perhaps across the surface of the Earth." That is a stronger statement than "gravity is this way in Italy." Ordering claims by "scientific goodness", we can say that
Gravity is the same *across the universe* > gravity is the same across the Earth
> gravity is in Italy
Somewhere the LHC stands between "the SM is validated across the universe" and "the SM is validated at one detector at the LHC". Yes, it would be "better" if the Higgs was found at other experiments, but the current situation is "better" than if the Higgs was found at one detector there and not in any other. Repeatability, like everything in science, is not a binary step function but is some continuous function over the domain [0,1].
But it does point at one measurement of G on cosmological timescales and distances from 2006:
There are other papers with similar measurements published in the past two decades.
That isn't a particularly fruitful approach since it doesn't permit any real discovery - it's rather brain-in-a-jar - but it is still something you have to assume away.
Since these operate in concert across the observable universe, and themselves involve various other interactions (elements, strong and week nuclear forces, gravity, speed of light, rates of hydrogen fusion, etc.), we can conclude that either there is no appreciable change in any of the underlying fundamental constants or that change occurs in a compensated fashion such that no net change is detectable.
The second fails Occam's Razor. The conclusion that the laws of physics appear to be similar throughout observable space seems robust.
In particular, you're making super-strong statements like "be all and end all of what defines 'science'" -- that's not what I see in the article. The article is reasonably pointing out that we have a repetition crisis and that more emphasis should be placed on it. That's not the various super-strong things you're claiming you see in it.
The title is picked by editors to get the most people to click on it.
You miss all nuance.
It's becomes very quickly apparent to those who've read the article when others comment without having read beyond the title.
But that doesn't matter, because it is not the experiment you are trying to replicate, is the effect or the observation.
Carefully changing the design of the experiment can allow to verify that your explanation of the effect or observation is accurate.
Of course, if the change the experiment too much, a failure to replicated will have less useful information.
So I think what has to occur is a gradual "loosening up" of the controls from strict replication to weak replication, with both types of replication giving information about the effect you are testing: its validity and its generality, respectively.
I should think this is mostly needed in life sciences. Other, more 'exact' sciences seem to not have this problem.
I don't think we do. I think we need to foster a culture of honesty and rigor. Of good science. Which is decidedly different from fostering a culture of "repetition" for its own sake.
Paying for the cost of mountains upon mountains of lab techs and materials that it would require to replicate every study published in a major journal just isn't a good use of ever-dwindling science dollars. Replicate where it's not far off the critical path. Replicate where the study is going to have a profound effect on the direction of research in several labs. But don't just replicate because "science!"
In fact, one could argue that the increased strain on funding sources introduced by the huge cost of reproducing a bunch of stuff would increase the cut-throat culture of science and thereby decrease the scientist's natural proclivity toward honesty.
> and b) does not accept something for a fact just because it's in a journal
Again, it's entirely unclear what you mean here.
It's impossible to re-verify every single paper you read (I've read three since breakfast). That would be like re-writing every single line of code of every dependency you pull into a project.
And I'm pretty sure literally no scientist takes a paper's own description of its results at face value without reading through methods and looking at (at least) a summary of the data.
Taking papers at face value is really only a problem in science reporting and at (very) sub-par institutions/venues.
I don't care about the latter, and neither should you.
WRT the former, science reporters often grossly misunderstand the paper anyways. All the good reproducible science in the world is of zero help if science reporters are going to bastardize the results beyond recognition anyways...
No one is proposing repetition for its own sake. The point of repetition is to create rigor, and you can't do rigorous science without repetition.
> Paying for the cost of mountains upon mountains of lab techs and materials that it would require to replicate every study published in a major journal just isn't a good use of ever-dwindling science dollars. Replicate where it's not far off the critical path. Replicate where the study is going to have a profound effect on the direction of research in several labs. But don't just replicate because "science!"
I could see a valid argument for only doing science that will be worth replicating, because if you don't bother to replicate you aren't really proving anything.
Exactly. A lot of the science I've done should not be replicated. If someone told me they wanted to replicate it, I would urge them not to. Not because I have something to hide. But because some other lab did something strictly superior that should be replicated instead. Or because the experiment asked the wrong questions. Or because the experiment itself could be pretty easily re-designed to avoid some pretty major threats.
The problem is that is that hindsight really is 20/20. It's kind of impossible to ONLY do good science. So it's important to have the facility to recognize when science (including your own) isn't good -- or is good but not as good as something else -- and is therefore not worth replicating.
I guess the two key insights are:
1. Not all science is worth replicating (either because it's too expensive or for some other reason).
2. Replication doesn't necessarily reduce doubt (particularly in the case of poorly designed experiments, or when the experiment asks the wrong questions).
Foster all you want, an honor system doesn't protect you from the incompetent people and dishonest people publishing junk for funding or self-promotion. If we had a culture if repetition it promotes cross checks that make up for the flaws in human nature.
The entire point of science, and this is not a hyperbole, is that results are reproducible. If the experiment is not reproducible one must take the results on faith. There is no such thing as faith based science.
In order to build a shared body of knowledge based on scientific facts, then, results must be repeated. It is how different people can talk about the same thing, without fearing an asymmetry of knowledge and understanding about the axioms on which their discussion of the world rests. Otherwise it is faith or religion or narrative, something other than than science.
No, it's not. The point of science -- its end -- is to understand the natural world. Or to cure diseases. Or, more cynically, to learn how build big bombs and more manipulative adverts.
Reproducible results are the means, not the end.
I know that seems like hair splitting, but it's important. Epistemological purity can do just as much harm as good, because even the most pure science is usually motivated more by "understand the natural world" or "improving our understanding of some relevant mathematical abstraction", rather than by episemological purity itself.
To be quite honest about it, I feel that this sort of epistemological purity that insists on reproducability as a good in itself feels a lot like some sort of legalistic religion.
> If the experiment is not reproducible one must take the results on faith. There is no such thing as faith based science.
I don't think I (or anyone here) is arguing against this. Or against reproducing important experiments.
I'm wholly supportive of reproducing results when it makes sense. But I'm also wary of, in a resource-constrained environment, prefering reproducing results over producing good science in the first place.
To be concrete about it, I'll always prefer a single (set of) instance(s) of a well-designed and expertly executed experiment over 10 reproductions of a crappy experiment. In the former case I at least know what I don't know. In the latter case, the data from the experiment -- no matter how many times it's reproduced -- might be impossible to interpret in anything approach a useful way.
Put simply, a lot of science isn't worth the effort of reproducing. Either because it's crap science, or because the cost of reproducing is too high and the documentation/oversight of the protocol sufficiently rigorous.
The point of science isn't an to perfectly adhere to the legalistic tradition of a Baconian religion. The point of science is learn things.
> To be concrete about it, I'll always prefer a single (set of) instance(s) of a well-designed and expertly executed experiment over 10 reproductions of a crappy experiment.
I'd take 2-3 repetitions of a moderately well-designed and moderately executed experiments over either. Even the most well-designed and executed experimental protocols can produce spurious results, due to the stochastic nature of the universe.
There is a disconnect between the motivation and capability of scientists in the current funding system and what the public wants. So an easy solution is that if the public wants reproduce-able science, they need to pay for it. I'm sure some scientists who couldn't make it into Harvard or Caltech (ie., me) and thus can't do cutting edge science would be happy to take the dollars, have a living, and just reproduce the work of others. But you can't simply declare to scientists they should do X while not enabling them to.
What's more, the scientific process is used discretely. One fact at a time. Understanding of our world, its meaning, these things are accumulative, over the entire context of our experience, and utilize things like feelings, and faith, and religion, and narative, to create.
Science is funded by the public, and done for the public. Good science reporting is very important to ensure that science continues to get funded. Too often scientific papers are written in a way that makes them incomprehensible to anyone outside of the field, whether that is through pressure to use the least amount of words possible or use of technical jargon.
Do we have a good source of information on that?
But to address your question anyways:
1. USFG scientific funding instutitions are only one source of science funding. There are many others. If you look across the federal government, there's a downward trend: http://www.aaas.org/sites/default/files/DefNon%3B.jpg
One must also take into account non-federal-governemnt sources, which in many cases have substantially decreased their investments in R&D since 2008.
2. As pcnt of GDP there's been a steady decline: http://www.aaas.org/sites/default/files/RDGDP%3B.jpg
3. From an impact-on-culture perspective -- which is the relevant one in my comment -- I think (2) is more intresting than your data and also more interesting than (1). The question should be "how difficult is it to fund good science", not "how much are spending in absolute or relative terms". This is, of course, very difficult to quantify. But looking at percentage of GDP is at least better than looking at absolute dollars.
I find many who are against repetition have certain views that are helped by soft science.
And I'm about as far from "soft sciences" as you can get.
Really? You're suggesting that psychologists (to arbitrarily pick a softer science) would deny physicists (to arbitrarily pick a harder science) should reproduce their studies where possible?
That seems remarkable to me, perhaps I've missed these discussions. Can you provide evidence that this is a pervasive movement in some sciences, rather than the opinion of a few?
"Many" is a trigger weasel word, of course, and needs backing up.
My interpretation -- perhaps incorrect -- is that you feel the softer sciences are wilfully undermining the quality of harder sciences. I very much doubt this is the case. Some philosophers of science and some softer science key influencers may introduce difficult and challenging questions about the appropriateness and usefulness of some research methodologies (as are people in this thread) but I doubt they'd make the blanket assertion you're suggesting.
b) can be a problem with meta-analyses and reviews. When gathering data "from the literature" , not all the data gathered is of the same quality/certainty, which can have a compounding effect. Or when someone from a mathematical or computational field tries to create a model using data reported in the literature. It is often difficult when working in an interdisciplinary environment to assess the quality of everything you read, especially if you re not familiar with all the experimental methods.
Also, off topic, but i wonder why you chose a throwaway account to weigh into this. i hope it's not a "science politics" reason.
Reproduction is a way of bolstering rigor.
it'd probably make sense to do that, actually, so you can verfiy that the dependency actually fits your use case as time goes on.
That is not sufficient. Honesty and rigor is of course required for good science, but it is not sufficient.
Even if honesty and rigor you WILL still get false positives. Statistics is used to measure how likely this is. Statistical methods do nothing to tell you if any particular case happens to be a false positive. For many studies a confidence of 95% is considered good enough to publish, but if you do the math that means a honest researcher who publishes 20 such studies has probably published one false result! If there are 20 studies published in a journal statistically one is false. Thus replication is important.
It gets worse though, the unexpected is published more often - if it is true it means a major change to our current theories and this is important to published. However our theories have been created and refined over many years, it is somewhat unlikely they are wrong (but not impossible). Or to put it a different way, if I carefully drop big and small rocks off the leaning town of Pisa and measure that the large rock "falls faster" that is more likely to be published than if I found they fell at the same speed. I think most of us would be suspicious of that result, but after examining my "methods and data" will not show any mistake I made. Most science is in areas where wrong results are not so obvious.
> It's impossible to re-verify every single paper you read
True, but somebody needs to re-verify every paper. It need not be you personally, but someone needs to. Meta-analysis only works if people re-verify every paper. Note that you don't need to do the exact experiment, verifying results with a different experiment design is probably more useful than repeating the exact same experiment: it might by chance remove a design factors that we don't even know we need to account for yet.
> And I'm pretty sure literally no scientist takes a paper's own description of its results at face value without reading through methods and looking at (at least) a summary of the data.
I hope not, but even if they check out, it doesn't follow that things are correct. Maybe something wasn't calibrated correctly and that wasn't noticed. Maybe there are other random factors nobody knows to account for today.
The above all assumes that good science is possible. In medical fields you may only have a few case studies: several different doctors saw different people each with some rare disease, tried some treatment and got some result. There is no control, no blinding, and a sample size of 1. But it is a rare disease so you cannot do better.
Now, after drugs are on the market then there is another wave of less reputable research. But, the FDA has already approved the drug so they don't care as much.
That's exactly what almost everyone in academia does. Money is not the only corrupting factor.
I'm not sure of this. By 'exact' disciplines I'm assuming you mean disciplines of science more dependent on mathematical proofs. A CACM paper a little bit ago discusses this, and found a large number of papers where not repeatable. If I recall, it mostly focused on that nobody shares code and/or the code didn't build.
I can't say I know any scientists who think any differently.
The problem these days is that spending time doing replication is not glamourous and will not help you get funds.
I do genetics and development, and the main sanity check we have is the distribution of mutant lines. If you say that mutant X does Y, other people are likely going to see that (or not) when they get their hands on it and start poking around. This strength of working with mutants is at the core of the success of molecular biology. Even if don't set out to confirm someone else's results, you're quite likely to come across some inconsistencies in the course of investigation.
If a field lacks that sort of mechanism, they need to take special care to address reproducibility.
As noted, this does not get rid of the confounding negative effects, where paper D was also used as a (in retrospect, faulty) premise as well. Though no one ever actually comes out and says 'D' is bad.
Over time, A, B, and C theories accrue significant weight while D falls off. It's not as explicit as some may like, but in the end the spirit of replication is well and alive.
Unfortunately for medical drugs and psychology, researchers are mostly gathering data without an understanding of the underlying mechanisms. There are also virtually never have proposals which can be tested for compliance with reality in a quantifiable and isolated way as we can with physics, chemistry, or parts of biology.
So I feel the replication crisis is not a matter of various fields just not knowing how to do "good science", but that these fields by their nature make clean hypothesis testing vastly more difficult and p-hacking and statistical trickery (intentional or otherwise) harder to sift out.
How certain are we that its 'the nature' of these fields rather than political choices that were solidified long ago? There could be much larger samples and six-sigma confidence in life sciences if the grants were allocated differently. I know this is happening, for example, in neuroscience where the (private) Allen Institute is creating significantly more rigorous (and useful) datasets compared to the bulk of studies, because they are funding their studies differently.
In physics, some theories have been tested and interconnected to such a degree, that if an experiment conflicts with theory, it's reasonable to suspect the experiment rather than discard the theory. That's what happened with that apparent faster-than-light travel of neutrinos captured in Italy. It was something like a partially unplugged cable. Once corrections were made for the cable, the theory snapped right back into place. Those theories can be trusted as akin to tools in day to day physics. For my humble graduate experiment, refutation of any major law would have led me to fix the experiment and try again. I simply assumed things like conservation of charge. Such laws probably include electrodynamics, gravitation, quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, and Darwinian evolution.
And this is a common feature of major studies in physics, chemistry, evolutionary biology, and other sciences as well.
Where we may run into trouble is in branches of sciences that don't have over-arching theories or that web of connected results. At the other end of the scale are areas of sciences where the results are mainly a database of observed statistical correlations, with little or no apparent progress towards a general theory. When someone publishes a surprising result, there is no reason to say that the experiment must have been done wrong. You just add it to the pile. The best that can be hoped for is that some kind of meta-analysis will demonstrate an inconsistency among multiple studies. Those fields don't have the "hard" theories that can be used as tools to test experimental results.
To be fair, there's another situation, where you have not one, but zero, reproducible results. That's the state of affairs in the search to unify gravity and quantum mechanics.
In other disciplines, the role of repetition is a lot more important. The look elsewhere effect means, that your statistical significance depends on all other research, published or unpublished.  If you are doing a repetition study, the look elsewhere effect just goes away. So good science in the first place is very important of course, but there is a lot of value in doing repeated experiments for fundamental statistical reasons. Especially in fields were there is no good predictive theory (everywhere except physics) and where it is very hard to go to very high significance.
 I recently read
John Lewis Gaddis, The Landscape of History, 2004
which is a essay on epistemology of history and in a way tries to reject "physics envy," with the argument that physics is everything where there is a good theory, so in a way where we are winning. And consequently physics envy looks a lot like cargo cult, other disciplines need to figure out their own epistemology.
 Incredible high precision experiments which measure the magnetic moment of electrons.
Repetition is science.
Google says: "the recurrence of an action or event."
Science requires 1) a prediction of an observation 2) repeated observation consistent with the prediction.
If there is no repeated observation of what was predicted, it is not science.
>But everyone believes the results, and believes that they represent the Higgs.
It doesn't matter what is believed. "Everyone" used to believe all kinds of things, that doesn't mean that those things were true, or accurate. Repeated observation of prior predictions is all that matters.
>When it costs billions to construct your experiment, sometimes reproducing the exact same thing can be hard.
That doesn't excuse, or allow in, things that haven't been reproduced.
The simple analogy is pictures one has on fMRI. These pictures are, well, pictures based on approximations, not the mind. Not even close.
There is a paradox - one cannot make an instrument out of atoms to "see" what is going on inside these atoms. What they saw are pictures created out of mathematical models, not reality as it is.
Physics has its own cases such as cold fusion which is unreproducable and should not be if all the above hold true.
Why? ATLAS and CMS are different detectors operated by different teams.
We don't have a way to mathematically prove a drug for depression a psychological phenomena.
You can't "mathematically prove" a theory agrees with reality except by reconciling it with experiments (possibly indirectly through links to previous theories), so the only difference here is that a non-ad-hoc mathematical theory of depression medication doesn't appear to be feasible, not that physics has some magic alternate method of proof.
You're missing the point of what I said w/ the Einstein example. He proved it via maths. Whether or not it was empirically validated is irrelevant. It was true mathematically
Today, this cannot be done with fields like medicine and psychology. No one can create a mathematical proof for a cure for cancer, make a treatment based upon that proof, and have it work on the first try
> Whether or not it was empirically validated is irrelevant. It was true mathematically
If you mean it was a self-consistent theory, note that there are infinite physically incorrect theories which are "true mathematically". It is true mathematically in the same way number theory is "true mathematically", but you don't see anyone assume that we can describe gravity with prime number theory. If you mean it was mathematically proved consistent with previous physical theories backed by evidence, we're back to the experimental link, and also there are infinite physically incorrect theories which would agree with Newtonian mechanics and special relativity. If you mean he proved it satisfied some properties we expect from physical theories because they've been consistently upheld (e.g. energy conservation), there's an infinite number of wrong ones there too.
Mathematical convenience has been an excellent guide in physics, particularly fundamental physics (electromagnetic waves, antiparticles, and the Higgs Boson were all the results of positing things for mathematical convenience), but it is not a substitute for verifying novel experimental predictions. Nobody taken seriously in the physics (or mathematics for that matter!) community thinks it is, not even the often decried string theorists.
My point is this: Something is true whether one accepts it or not. E.g. the earth was proven to be round before anyone actually went around it.
Another example is climate change deniers. To them there's no proof of; 1) Climate change; 2) That it's man made.
Another example is people who believe the earth is 10,000 years old (I'm not joking millions of ppl believe this). They will deny any evidence you put in front of them.
That's the beauty of maths. If you can prove it mathematically, it's true. Whether or not you believe it is irrelevant.
As for the existence objective reality, that's another thing that seems hard to prove conclusively. I'd suggest looking at some of the basic epistemology surrounding modern science (e.g. Popper) for some thoughts on this.
As an interesting aside, while it's true that mathematical proofs (idealizing here and assuming incorrect proofs are never accepted by the mathematical community, because they on occasion are) are absolute statements of truth, they may not be stating precisely the truth you expect. Thanks to Godel, we know that it is not possible for any consistent mathematical theory rich enough to talk about addition and multiplication of natural numbers to prove it's own consistency. As a result, we may have a proof that 2+2 != 5, but that actually doesn't exclude the possibility that there is a proof of 2+2 = 5. In fact, his result shows we will never be able to prove such a thing does not exist (since it would imply the consistency of our mathematical system). So our absolute truths from proofs of X are actually of the form ZFC implies X, where ZFC is the background theory which is generally taken to underly modern mathematical works unless otherwise specified. So things are not so clear cut even here.
It seems you're more interested in dicing up and attacking what I said, instead of what I mean.
I'll re-articulate it for you once more: We don't have a way to mathematically prove a drug for depression or to explain psychological phenomena. The studies in the article are talking about those which rely on empirical observation.
How many problems have you worked through in GR? Have you gone through the proofs that GR recreates Newtonian gravity in the low-energy limit? If not, don't go around talking about how Einstein proved GR was a true description of reality with naught but mathematical proof when he didn't think he did that.
Physics has the same requirements for empiric evidence as the life sciences, it's just that we work within regimes where we can apply fundamental, empirically validated mathematical theories directly. If you don't believe me, go ask another physicist.
Yes, it is - that's the very basis for science. One of the main problems is that many academic disciplines have been wrongly classified as hard science (see "social" sciences).
>The LHC has only been built once.. But everyone believes the results, and believes that they represent the Higgs.
Nobody intelligent "believes" anything. We examine evidence and draw tentative conclusions based on that evidence, always retaining doubt because, unless you are omniscient, there is always new information that can come to light that can cause you to change your conclusion. Science is a process. If you "believe" anything without doubt, you aren't a scientist, you are a priest.