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Is most published research really false?

In 2005, PLoS Medicine published an essay by John Ioannidis, called "Why most published research findings are false," that has been downloaded over 100,000 times and that was called "an instant cult classic" in a Boston Globe op-ed of July 27 2006 (http://www.boston.com/news/science/articles/2006/07/27/science_and_shams/). This week, PLoS Medicine revisits the essay, publishing two articles by researchers that move the debate in two new directions.

In his 2005 essay (freely available at http://medicine.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1371/journal.pmed.0020124) , Dr Ioannidis wrote: "Published research findings are sometimes refuted by subsequent evidence, with ensuing confusion and disappointment." He argued that there is increasing concern that in modern research, false findings may be the majority or even the vast majority of published research claims, and went on to try and prove that most claimed research findings are false.

However, in this week's PLoS Medicine, Ramal Moonesinghe (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and colleagues demonstrate that the likelihood of a published research result being true increases when that finding has been repeatedly replicated in multiple studies.

"As part of the scientific enterprise," say the authors, "we know that replicationthe performance of another study statistically confirming the same hypothesisis the cornerstone of science and replication of findings is very important before any causal inference can be drawn." While the importance of replication was acknowledged by Dr Ioannidis, say Dr Moonesinghe and colleagues, he did not show that the likelihood of a statistically significant research finding being true increases when that finding has been replicated in many studies.

The authors say that their new demonstration "should be encouraging news to researc
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Contact: Andrew Hyde
press@plos.org
44-122-346-3330
Public Library of Science
26-Feb-2007


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