Broken Science

Ronald Bailey:

Nullius in verba is the motto of one of the earliest scientific associations-the Royal Society, founded in 1663. Broadly translated, the phrase means “Don’t take anybody’s word for it.”

You know how it’s supposed to work: A scientist should ideally be able to do the same experiment as any other scientist and get similar results. As researchers check and recheck each other’s findings, the sphere of knowledge expands. Replication is the path to scientific advancement.

Some 15 million researchers published more than 25 million scientific papers between 1996 and 2011. Among them were several casting doubt on the veracity and reliability of the rest—suggesting that even studies published in gold-standard journals by researchers from top-tier institutions are far more likely than anyone previously realized to be false, fudged, or flukey. The upshot is that many researchers have come to believe that science is badly battered, if not broken.