'Loss Of Confidence Project' Prods Scientists to Do the Right Thing

Jul 23, 2018

It’s not easy to admit that you’ve been wrong. But everyone makes mistakes and scientists are no different.

But when a researcher makes a poor choice in the lab or misinterprets his or her results, and that becomes part of the permanent scientific record, that can have far-reaching implications.

A new project is offering scientists who later change their opinions or discount their previous data an opportunity to make that known to others so that the whole field can benefit. It’s called the Loss of Confidence Project.

“A recent project looked at 98 high-profile psychology papers from three journals and only around 39 percent of those were reproducable,” said Dalmeet Singh Chawla, a journalist who wrote about the project for UnDark magazine.

There was a similar finding for a group of scientific papers about cancer.    

Chawla told Living Lab Radio that the lack of reproducibility doesn’t mean that the science was done in bad faith or recklessly, it just means it's time to flag the work for further study. 

“That’s where the Loss of Confidence Project fits in,” he said. “If you no longer believe a study that you used to, let’s come forward and say that. But the condition is the author coming forward must be willing to take responsibility for the methodological and theoretical problems with that paper.”