Why science is hard – Part II – The 200 words project

(Continued from Part I)

Why do we see headlines about coffee being good for us one day and bad the next? It is possible that the original study was flawed- career incentives around paper publication have created bogus journals. But, it is gradually becoming harder to fake it on the internet with online forums and comments on all journal websites. Self-correction is a critical part of science and retractions are on the rise.

science is hard

The main issue is in such studies is that isolating how coffee affects health requires lots of studies and lots of evidence, and only over the course of many, many studies does the evidence start to narrow to a conclusion that’s defensible. The variation in findings is not a threat – it just means that scientists are working on a hard problem.

This uncertainty doesn’t mean that we can’t use findings to make important decisions. We should make the best decisions we can with the current evidence but take care not to lose sight of its strength and degree of certainty AND stay open to new data. It’s no accident that every good paper includes the phrase “more study is needed” — there is always more to learn.
(More on how failure is actually moving science forward in the last piece of this series next week..)

Science is great, but it’s low-yield. Most experiments fail. That doesn’t mean the challenge isn’t worth it, but we can’t expect every dollar to turn a positive result. Most of the things you try don’t work out — that’s just the nature of the process. Rather than merely avoiding failure, we need to court truth. – FiveThirtyEight

Source and thanks to: The FiveThirtyEight Blog – Science isn’t broken