A recent paper makes an upsetting claim about the state of science: nonreplicable studies are cited more often than replicable ones. In other words, according to the report in Science Advances, bad science seems to get more attention than good science.
The paper follows up on reports of a “replication crisis” in psychology, wherein large numbers of academic papers present results that other researchers are unable to reproduce—as well as claims that the problem is not limited to psychology. This matters for several reasons. If a substantial proportion of science fails to meet the norm of replicability, then this work won’t provide a solid basis for decision-making. Failure to replicate results may delay the use of science in developing new medicines and technologies. It may also undermine public trust, making it harder to get Americans vaccinated or to act on climate change. And money spent on invalid science is money wasted: one study puts the cost of irreproducible medical research in the U.S. alone at $28 billion a year.
In the new study, the authors tracked papers in psychology journals, economics journals, and Science and Nature with documented failures of replication. The results are disturbing: papers that couldn’t be replicated were cited more than average, even after the news of the reproducibility failure had been published, and only 12 percent of postexposure citations acknowledged the failure.