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Don't Believe Everything You Read in the Papers

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There have been a number of high profile cases of academic fraud recently. However, a more insidious threat to the integrity of science is the extent to which distortions of scientific best practice increases the likelihood that published research findings are in fact false. I will provide evidence for a range of systemic problems within science, such as flexibility in the analysis of data, selective reporting of study results, publication bias against null results, influence of vested (e.g., financial) interests, and distorted incentive structures. I will show that under some plausible and quite conservative assumptions, it is likely that the majority of published findings are in fact false. A number of strategies for improving the situation will be discussed.

Marcus Munafò is Professor of Biological Psychology in the School of Experimental Psychology at the University of Bristol, and Director of the Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group (http://www.bristol.ac.uk/expsych/research/brain/targ/). He was an undergraduate at the University of Oxford, before moving to the University of Southampton to complete an MSc in Health Psychology and a PhD. Following this, he returned to the University of Oxford, as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Public Health and Primary Care and later the Department of Clinical Pharmacology. In 2004-2005 he spent 6 months as a Visiting Professor at the University of Pennsylvania. In March 2005 took up a tenured position at the University of Bristol.

This talk is part of the Zangwill Club series.

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