There is a problem with modern scientific findings and it is that researchers can’t replicate most discoveries.
A group of researchers at Amgen, an American pharmaceutical company, attempted to replicate 53 landmark cancer discoveries in close collaboration with the authors. Many of these papers were published in high-impact journals and came from prestigious academic institutions. To the surprise of everyone involved, they were able to replicate only six of those papers—approximately 11 percent.
Why do I say modern? The quantity of scientific papers keeps increasing. And scientists, who crave recognition, want to differentiate and shine by themselves.
Says Robert Merton, a well-known sociologist:
The well-recognized sociologist Robert Merton has pointed out that scientists’ need for recognition may stem from their need to be assured that what they know is worth knowing, and that they are capable of original thought. In this view, recognition is necessary for intellectual confidence.
Unfortunately, recognition is not derived from the quality of the work:
The inconvenient truth is that scientists can achieve fame and advance their careers through accomplishments that do not prioritize the quality of their work. If recognition is not based on quality, then scientists will not modify their behaviors to select for it. In the culture of modern science, it is better to be wrong than to be second.
This does not mean that quality is completely neglected. The Nobel Prize—the most coveted form of recognition—is associated with scientific discoveries of the highest caliber. But for the tens of thousands of scientists fighting over shrinking research budgets, winning less visible awards becomes an obsession, needed for promotions and grants.
Woops. What will the impact of this trend be in 10 years?