Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Most scientific papers are probably wrong

I just read an article which says that most published scientific research papers are wrong, according to a new analysis by John P. A. Ioannidis of the University of Ioannina School of Medicine, Ioannina, Greece .

According to him, assuming that the new paper is itself correct, problems with experimental and statistical methods mean that there is less than a 50% chance that the results of any randomly chosen scientific paper are true. Traditionally a study is said to be "statistically significant" if the odds are only 1 in 20 that the result could be pure chance. But in a complicated field where there are many potential hypotheses to sift through - such as whether a particular gene influences a particular disease - it is easy to reach false conclusions using this standard. If you test 20 false hypotheses, one of them is likely to show up as true, on average.

In his paper John P. A. Ioannidis said that small sample sizes, poor study design, researcher bias, and selective reporting and other problems combine to make most research findings false. But even large, well-designed studies are not always right, meaning that scientists and the public have to be wary of reported findings.

We should be careful in gathering information from research papers. It may be false...


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