Ed Yong at the Atlantic: “Psychologists are in the midst of an ongoing, difficult reckoning. Many believe that their field is experiencing a “reproducibility crisis,” because they’ve tried and failed to repeat experiments done by their peers. Even classic results—the stuff of textbooks and TED talks—have proven surprisingly hard to replicate, perhaps because they’re the results of poor methods and statistical tomfoolery. These problems have spawned a community of researchers dedicated to improving the practices of their field and forging a more reliable way of doing science.
These attempts at reform have met resistance. Critics have argued that the so-called crisis is nothing of the sort, and that researchers who have failed to repeat past experiments were variously incompetent, prejudiced, or acting in bad faith.
But if those critiques are correct, then why is it that scientists seem to be remarkably good at predicting which studies in psychology and other social sciences will replicate, and which will not?
Consider the new results from the Social Sciences Replication Project, in which 24 researchers attempted to replicate social-science studies published between 2010 and 2015 in Nature and Science—the world’s top two scientific journals. The replicators ran much bigger versions of the original studies, recruiting around five times as many volunteers as before. They did all their work in the open, and ran their plans past the teams behind the original experiments. And ultimately, they could only reproduce the results of 13 out of 21 studies—62 percent.
As it turned out, that finding was entirely predictable. While the SSRP team was doing their experimental re-runs, they also ran a “prediction market”—a stock exchange in which volunteers could buy or sell “shares” in the 21 studies, based on how reproducible they seemed. They recruited 206 volunteers—a mix of psychologists and economists, students and professors, none of whom were involved in the SSRP itself. Each started with $100 and could earn more by correctly betting on studies that eventually panned out.
At the start of the market, shares for every study cost $0.50 each. As trading continued, those prices soared and dipped depending on the traders’ activities. And after two weeks, the final price reflected the traders’ collective view on the odds that each study would successfully replicate. So, for example, a stock price of $0.87 would mean a study had an 87 percent chance of replicating. Overall, the traders thought that studies in the market would replicate 63 percent of the time—a figure that was uncannily close to the actual 62-percent success rate.
The traders’ instincts were also unfailingly sound when it came to individual studies. Look at the graph below. The market assigned higher odds of success for the 13 studies that were successfully replicated than the eight that weren’t—compare the blue diamonds to the yellow diamonds….(More)”.