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You're assuming that only "reproducible" results are valid, which is incorrect. Results that are reproducible within a lab, but not when attempted by other people in different settings indicate that there's an unaccounted for variable, and that falls into the 89%. There's still something valuable there, it's just that we don't yet know all the variables.

We could just give up, or we could try to continue study of something incredibly complex. Given that we are gaining some ground, it's clearly not a useless endeavor, it's just an extremely difficult one.




If its not reproducible it is not science.

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Define reproducible, in the terms of the precise actions that people take. Is it reproducible if the same scientist repeats the experiment in the same lab and gets the same results? Because that's the current bar of reproducibility, and that 89% that is not "reproducible" certainly passed that bar.

What was being tested was a different lab, with different materials, trying to get the "same" results, for some definition of same. If you give 100 programmers an algorithms book, and tell them to produce code for a binary search, and only 25% of the programmers are able to make something that works, does that mean that binary search is only 25% reproducible?

If five different companies benchmark five different web frameworks for their application, and come to 2-4 different answers about which one is the 'best,' does that mean that the benchmarks are not reproducible? Of course not.

What's being highlighted here in this study is the extreme diversity of biological models. And one doesn't necessarily expect exact reproducibility in other people's hands, because we simply don't have technology to characterize every single aspect of a biological model, and it's impossible sometimes to even recreate the exact same biological context. Is something "reproducible" if it means that it replicates in 5% of other cell lines, 25% of other cell lines?

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>Is it reproducible if the same scientist repeats the >experiment in the same lab and gets the same results? >Because that's the current bar of reproducibility, and that >89% that is not "reproducible" certainly passed that bar.

I don't follow you here. The above does not seem to be the current meaning of "reproducible":

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reproducibility

The same person doing the same experiment is repeatable, not reproducible. And I don't believe even the repeatable bar has been met, as very few projects have funding to do the same experiment twice.

The fact that a given investigator can "repeat" his experiment have very low weight among professional scientists, because we are all human. Irving Langmuir's famous talk about Pathological Science, and especially the sad story of N-rays, is a warning to every scientist.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pathological_science

http://www.cs.princeton.edu/~ken/Langmuir/langB.htm#Nrays

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So there is a theory that if something doesn't reproduce it's because the other guy was just incompetent, and that may be the case, but just like everyone wants to believe they're above average, everyone will want to go to the theory that the other guys just aren't any good, when I suspect that that will be much less of a factor. At any rate, when you start trying these drugs on the wide diversity of the patient population, if they're not super robust, they don't be of much use anyways.

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Huge swaths of astronomy are functionally unreproducible. We can argue about the math but many phenomena exist as a single example and/or that's basically static on our time scales. The best we can do is see if the math seems to produce similar looking structures when (sparsely) simulated.

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There's a difference between an observation and an experiment. Lab experiments should be reproducible. The fact that astronomical events are not reproducible does not make the study of them unscientific, but it also doesn't imply that lab experiments should be one time events.

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Would there be a problem with just calling it something else other than science then? I don't see the need to bend definitions of words to account for inconvenient circumstances. I am a programmer and do hard stuff, I don't require people to call me a scientist. Mathematicians do hard stuff, they don't complain that they're not called scientists. Engineers, too, are not scientists. It's not pejorative, just a statement of fact. If what you say is correct, then what is the issue with just saying astronomy is not a scientific field?

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Well attempting to exclude astronomy/astrophysics from the umbrella of science would be bending the definition far more than the current status quo.

Part of this is that science isn't about experimentation, it's about observation. We perform experiments when possible so that we have more stuff to observe, or more controlled events.

Much of astronomy, atmospheric physics, geology, medicine, the "soft" sciences and I'm sure plenty of other "hard" fields are at the mercy of certain phenomena having sweet FA for data points. And I'm sure they all do what astrophysicists do: make sure that what we do have plenty of data for works; make our extrapolations with as few assumptions/rounding errors as we can; and revisit existing models anytime we find a new data point.

It's as scientific as anything it's simply going to take longer to sort out in some cases.

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I once had a very long and intense argument with a guy who was offended because I thought that I wasn't a scientist even though I studied Software Engineering (not even Computer Science).

Apparently people take that crap seriously.

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I think this is a straw man. Astronomers, astrophysicists, etc. go to enormous lengths to address these issues over time and are well aware of the shortcomings of their work. When black holes were predicted, none had been observed. I'd suggest that astronomy is a terrible place to make claims about irreproducibility.

Cosmology on the other hand...

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It's really critical that we don't confuse research that's nor reproducible with fraud. Very few scientific theories survive unmodified over time, so lack of reproducibility isn't a criticism and we really need to move the debate past this. Every theory is expected to be inaccurate as it only explains the data using the understanding of the time, but this isn't an indictment of the research or the researcher and studies of outright fraud indicate that that actually only happens around 1% of the time.

Reproducibility isn't about calling out people whose work isn't reproducible, it's about identifying and promoting the most robust stuff.

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There are lots of parts of science that can't be experimented on (e.g. astronomy). Even for those parts that are experimental, just because you're wrong doesn't mean you're not doing science.

The current test (if I remember my philosophy of science correctly is about falsifiability - it's not science if its claims can't be disproven. From this perspective, bad experiments are still science - someone predicted that similar experiments would behave similarly, and their prediction was falsified. This is how science is supposed to work.

It gets problematic when any failure to reproduce instinctively gets explained away as experimental error on the part of the second experimenter. Even worse is when experimenters (as in this case) work to have failures to reproduce hidden from the scientific community (the authors of this study had to sign contracts that they would not identify specific failing studies before they were given the necessary data about experimental procedure.

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https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5680310

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That's not true. Part of science is doing experimentation. If an experiment doesn't reproduce, you need to find out why that is. The hypothesize and test part of the scientific process is every bit as much science as the rest, even if your tests show that an idea is wrong, or that more is going on then you thought.

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What about the experiments run by using the LHC? No other organization has a similarly sized particle accelerator, so by your definition it is not science because it cannot be reproduced elsewhere?

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