by Elizabeth Matsui
Recently I was talking to a colleague about whether one of his high profile controversial scientific findings from a few years ago turned out to be true. He said that there had been quite a few papers that had accumulated since the discovery and he estimated that the “pro” evidence outweighed the “con” evidence in about a 3:1 ratio, so it seemed that the finding was probably true. Surely there must be a more elegant way of finding the truth? I’d argue that despite the sometimes frustrating nature of discovery, this is a sign that science is working as it should.
Although the press sometimes portrays the back-and-forth of scientific discovery as a sign that the process is broken, it is the very nature of the process that as more research is done, conclusions change. My colleague Roger Peng, for example, makes this point here and discusses whether there is a crisis of lack of reproducibility in science here. More to come in this space on why some studies might get different results and ways to improve the odds of finding a more true answer on the first try.