Has Science Journalism Helped Unmask a “Replication Crisis” in Biomedicine?

Philip Kitcher in the Los Angeles Review of Books:

During the past eight years, many astute people, inside and outside the scientific community, have worried about the quality of scientific research. They warn of a “replication crisis.” In biomedicine and psychology in particular, it seems that a high proportion of published results cannot be reproduced. The absolute number of retractions for articles in these fields are rising. Whether or not it is right to talk of crisis, it is certainly reasonable to be concerned. What is going on?

Explanations typically fall into three categories. One possibility is that contemporary science, at least in some domains, is full of corrupt and dishonest people who routinely commit fraud, making up data for experiments that were never performed, or misreporting the results they have actually found, or tweaking their graphs and prettifying their images, and so on. In short, these fraudsters intentionally attempt to deceive their colleagues and, ultimately, members of the broader public. A second possibility is that incompetence or sloppiness is at play. As in Nick Carraway’s verdict on Tom and Daisy Buchanan, biomedical and psychological researchers are quite simply careless people who make a mess for others to clear up as best they can. And the third possibility: Neither fraud nor lack of rigor is responsible for the problem.

More here.