With a scientist’s career depending on publishing as many papers as possible in the most prestigious possible journals, scientists are incentivized to be productive, not to be right, says The Atlantic.
So what should be done?
“Some scientists have argued for a system of 'pre-registration,' where work is evaluated on the back of their ideas and plans, before any actual work is carried out,” The Atlantic says. "They commit to carry out the plans to the letter, and journals commit to publishing the results come what may. That reduces the capacity and incentive to mess with studies to boost one’s odds of getting a paper. It also moves the focus away from eye-catching results and towards solid, reliable methods.”
Nearly 40 journals are publishing these kinds of registered reports, and there are moves to tie them more closely to grants, so a single review of a study’s methods guarantees funding and publication, The Atlantic says.
Putting a premium on transparency also can help, says Simine Vazire, a psychologist at the University of California, Davis. “If authors are required to disclose more details about their research, journals and reviewers will be in a better position to evaluate the quality of studies, and it will be much harder for authors to game the system.”
Top journals like Nature and Science are, in fact, encouraging authors to be more transparent about their data and methods, while providing checklists to make it easier for editors to inspect the statistical qualities of new papers, The Atlantic says.