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Meta Research: Questionable research practices may have little effect on replicability

  1. Rolf Ulrich  Is a corresponding author
  2. Jeff Miller  Is a corresponding author
  1. University of Tübingen, Germany
  2. University of Otago, New Zealand
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Cite this article as: eLife 2020;9:e58237 doi: 10.7554/eLife.58237

Abstract

This article examines why many studies fail to replicate statistically significant published results. We address this issue within a general statistical framework that also allows us to include various questionable research practices (QRPs) that are thought to reduce replicability. The analyses indicate that the base rate of true effects is the major factor that determines the replication rate of scientific results. Specifically, for purely statistical reasons, replicability is low in research domains where true effects are rare (e.g., search for effective drugs in pharmacology). This point is under-appreciated in current scientific and media discussions of replicability, which often attribute poor replicability mainly to QRPs.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Rolf Ulrich

    Dpartment of Psychology, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany
    For correspondence
    ulrich@uni-tuebingen.de
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0001-8443-2705
  2. Jeff Miller

    Deparment of Psychology, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
    For correspondence
    miller@psy.otago.ac.nz
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0003-2718-3153

Funding

No external funding was received for this work.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Peter Rodgers, eLife, United Kingdom

Publication history

  1. Received: May 13, 2020
  2. Accepted: September 14, 2020
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: September 15, 2020 (version 1)

Copyright

© 2020, Ulrich & Miller

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

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