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An investigation in November uncovered a scam in which researchers were rubber-stamping their own work, circumventing peer review at five high-profile publishers. Hillary Clinton with a sense of purpose. But don’t go bragging about that to your friends. You could have proved the same for Republicans. That’s because answering even a simple scientific question — which party is correlated with economic success — requires lots of choices that can shape the results. This doesn’t mean that science is unreliable. It just means that it’s more challenging than we sometimes give it credit for.
Which political party is best for the economy seems like a pretty straightforward question. But as you saw, it’s much easier to get a result than it is to get an answer. The variables in the data sets you used to test your hypothesis had 1,800 possible combinations. Of these, 1,078 yielded a publishable p-value,A p-value science article review than or equal to 0. The p-value reveals almost nothing about the strength of the evidence, yet a p-value of 0.
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05 has become the ticket to get into many journals. Scientists’ overreliance on p-values has led at least one journal to decide it has had enough of them. In February, Basic and Applied Social Psychology announced that it will no longer publish p-values. We believe that the p the editors wrote in their announcement. After all, what scientists really want to know is whether their hypothesis is true, and if so, how strong the finding is. Regina Nuzzo, a statistician and journalist in Washington, D.
Instead, you can think of the p-value as an index of surprise. Scientists who fiddle around like this — just about all of them do, Simonsohn told me — aren’t usually committing fraud, nor are they intending to. They’re just falling prey to natural human biases that lead them to tip the scales and set up studies to produce false-positive results. Since publishing novel results can garner a scientist rewards such as tenure and jobs, there’s ample incentive to p-hack.
Indeed, when Simonsohn analyzed the distribution of p-values in published psychology papers, he found that they were suspiciously concentrated around 0. What it means is that they’re human. P-hacking and similar types of manipulations often arise from human biases. You really believe your hypothesis and you get the data and there’s ambiguity about how to analyze it. Stanford meta-science researcher John Ioannidis concluded, in a famous 2005 paper, that most published research findings are false. If the purpose of studies is to push the frontiers of knowledge, then perhaps playing around with different methods shouldn’t be thought of as a dirty trick, but encouraged as a way of exploring boundaries.
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