“This is one of medicine’s dirty secrets: Most results, including those that appear in top-flight peer-reviewed journals, can’t be reproduced.”
The Wall Street Journal reports,
Two years ago, a group of Boston researchers published a study describing how they had destroyed cancer tumors by targeting a protein called STK33. Scientists at biotechnology firm Amgen Inc. quickly pounced on the idea and assigned two dozen researchers to try to repeat the experiment with a goal of turning the findings into a drug.
It proved to be a waste of time and money. After six months of intensive lab work, Amgen found it couldn’t replicate the results and scrapped the project.
“I was disappointed but not surprised,” says Glenn Begley, vice president of research at Amgen of Thousand Oaks, Calif. “More often than not, we are unable to reproduce findings” published by researchers in journals.
This is one of medicine’s dirty secrets: Most results, including those that appear in top-flight peer-reviewed journals, can’t be reproduced…
There is also a more insidious and pervasive problem: a preference for positive results.
Unlike pharmaceutical companies, academic researchers rarely conduct experiments in a “blinded” manner. This makes it easier to cherry-pick statistical findings that support a positive result. In the quest for jobs and funding, especially in an era of economic malaise, the growing army of scientists need more successful experiments to their name, not failed ones. An explosion of scientific and academic journals has added to the pressure.
When it comes to results that can’t be replicated, Dr. Alberts says the increasing intricacy of experiments may be largely to blame. “It has to do with the complexity of biology and the fact that methods [used in labs] are getting more sophisticated,” he says…