MAY 27, 2021 7:24 AM PDT

Research Less Likely to Be True is Cited More

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Researchers from the University of California San Diego have found that non-replicable data is cited 153 times more often than data that has been replicated. They say that this is because non-replicable findings are often more ‘interesting’ than those that can be reproduced. 

For the study, the researchers examined data from three influential replication projects that tried to systematically replicate findings in well-known journals such as Nature and Science. Among psychology studies, only 39% of the 100 experiments analyzed were successfully replicated. The same was true for 61% of 18 studies in economics and 62% of 21 studies in science topics. 

After this, the researchers went on to see whether papers that failed to replicate were cited more often than those that were successfully replicated. In doing so, they found that non-replicable papers were significantly more likely to be cited than those that were replicated. Science papers presented the largest gap- those that were non-replicable were cited 300 times more than those that were replicated. 

The researchers further found that on average, papers that are not replicated are cited 16 times more per year. They added that just 12% of post-replication citations of non-replicable findings recognize a replication failure. 

This relationship remained even after accounting for other characteristics of the studies. These included the number of authors, how many male authors there were, study location and language as well as the field in which the paper was published. 

As for how and why this happens, the researchers pointed towards several reasons. Results that can not or have not been replicated may be seen as more ‘interesting’ or ‘groundbreaking’ than those that are replicable. These results then get more media coverage and are shared more often on social media. 

They also noted that journals may feel pressure to publish interesting findings and that they may apply lower standards regarding reproducibility for ‘interesting’ results. Moreover, academic institutions tend to use citations as a metric on whether a faculty member should be promoted or not. 

“We hope our research encourages readers to be cautious if they read something that is interesting and appealing,” says Marta Serra-Garcia, one of the study’s authors. “Whenever researchers cite work that is more interesting or has been cited a lot, we hope they will check if replication data is available and what those findings suggest.”

 

Sources: Neuroscience NewsScience Advances

About the Author
  • Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets. When she's not writing, she is COO of Xeurix, an HR startup that assesses jobfit from gamified workplace simulations.
You May Also Like
OCT 30, 2021
Health & Medicine
Human Brains React Fastest to the Smell of Danger
OCT 30, 2021
Human Brains React Fastest to the Smell of Danger
The ability to detect odors is important to most organisms' survival; they have to be able to find food or mates, fo ...
NOV 03, 2021
Health & Medicine
The Right Amount of Sleep for Stable Cognition in Older Adults
NOV 03, 2021
The Right Amount of Sleep for Stable Cognition in Older Adults
The wonders of sleep. What a good night's sleep can do for our resistance to stress, memory, and creative insight. S ...
NOV 17, 2021
Neuroscience
Black Friday: A Shopper's Heaven or Hell?
NOV 17, 2021
Black Friday: A Shopper's Heaven or Hell?
Shoppers either love or hate events like Black Friday, and psychologists explain why
NOV 22, 2021
Technology
Happify Health Pursues Prescription Digital Therapeutic for Migraine Headaches
NOV 22, 2021
Happify Health Pursues Prescription Digital Therapeutic for Migraine Headaches
Digital therapeutics are on the rise and here to stay. Many digital therapeutics are designed for the treatment of menta ...
DEC 23, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Broken Cell "Cleaning Systems" and Schizophrenia
DEC 23, 2021
Broken Cell "Cleaning Systems" and Schizophrenia
A new study in Molecular Psychiatry has brought forward two new biomarkers of schizophrenia and opened up the ...
JAN 13, 2022
Neuroscience
This is your brain on music: Goosebumps or meh?
JAN 13, 2022
This is your brain on music: Goosebumps or meh?
Neuroscientists uncover neural basis of emotional responses to music
Loading Comments...