In 2012 the biotechnology firm Amgen tried to reproduce 53 “landmark” studies in hematology and oncology. The company could only replicate six. Are doctors basing serious decisions about medical treatment on the rest? Consider the financial costs, too. A 2015 study estimated that American researchers spend $28 billion a year on irreproducible preclinical research.
As the Randall and Welser report emphasizes:
Much research involves fishing for significant correlations that may be statistical artifacts and then playing them up. He who plays up best is most pleasing to the elite journals and is hence best at getting published in those journals.
Many years ago, with respect to the management field (related to my own field of industrial relations), Lex Donaldson wrote a book American Anti-Management Theories of Organization, in which he describes how the gamesmanship associated with the publication process had led to junk management theories. The Randall and Welser report is a broader discussion of the same problem.
Here are the first few of Randall and Welser's recommendations:
These recommendations are sensible to anyone who has done research in the social sciences, and I assume the same is true of the natural sciences.
Indeed, the reactions of tendentious "progressives" like Doctorow and Schulson offer evidence as to why university science has deteriorated in quality.