By Ed Yong
The problem, as others have noted, is that what is good for individual scientists is not necessarily what is good for science as a whole. A scientist’s career currently depends on publishing as many papers as possible in the most prestigious possible journals. More than any other metric, that’s what gets them prestige, grants, and jobs.
Now, imagine you’re a researcher who wants to game this system. Here’s what you do. Run many small and statistically weak studies. Tweak your methods on the fly to ensure positive results. If you get negative results, sweep them under the rug. Never try to check old results; only pursue new and exciting ones. These are not just flights of fancy. We know that such practices abound. They’re great for getting publications, but they also pollute the scientific record with results that aren’t actually true. As Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet once wrote, “No one is incentivized to be right. Instead, scientists are incentivized to be productive.”
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