Monday, 31 December 2018

Some Do, Some Don't: There's not much Difference: It's more complicated that that (2018)


Many of the founding principles of physics as a science are built on frameworks and ideas that have been around for hundreds of years. These 'laws of nature' and working principles, along with much more recent speculation, theory, observation and experiment are so attractive as a body of human knowledge that for science, we often try to read physic(al) science. Researchers in other fields often show signs of physics envy - with biologists and social scientists being most guilty of this type of behaviour (it is interesting perhaps to note that chemists, though less in the limelight these days that they used to be, on the whole are rarely envious of physicists).

Physics envy is a most wasteful emotional condition. The simple fact is that no other scientific field will have the same structure or dynamics as physics, because they study different phenomena, subject to different laws. In addition, many of the other sciences are so very young compared with physics that their relative immaturity does not help. I suspect that time, and the application of serious levels of effort and hard work, will be one of the most important factors required to create more solid foundations for psychology, sociology, ecology, biology and genetics. Unfortunately for everyone, including the tax-payers who fund the majority of scientific research, modern science is performed in a state of perpetual hyper-competitiveness. Although this is an understandable need from the point of view of the career development of individual scientists, for the overall health of human knowledge it is corrosive.

As an example, HERE, is a summary by Ed Yong in The Atlantic of the results of ManyLabs 2 - a serious attempt to replicate the findings of 28 well known psychological experiments. Unsurprisingly, half of them are not-reproducible. What is perhaps more interesting, is the author's take on the study: 
Ironically enough, it seems that one of the most reliable findings in psychology is that only half of psychological studies can be successfully repeated.
From this, I suggest that it is clear enough that we might want to formulate Yong's Law of psychology:
No more than one-half of the results of published psychological studies will ever be replicated.


    


  


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