How can we increase the reproducibility of scientific results? In my opinion, the solution depends on a simple principle: People respond to incentives and cultural values. Until our scientific system begins to incentivize reproducible research, we will have to deal with the problem of irreproducible results. Actions, incentives and values speak louder than words.
As I wrote previously, our scientific culture has a profound influence on the research that we do and its quality. An element of this culture is the attention that we pay to the research methods and their description. The fact that an increasing number of journals and magazines relegate the methods section to the end of their scientific articles or even just to the online supporting materials is sending a strong message that the methods are less important than the findings. Yet the findings mean nothing without solid, reliable methods. Before I am interested in the findings, I would like to know whether the methods can support them, i.e., whether the findings might be true. I agree with John Pringle that the relegation of the materials and methods section is a very unfortunate and pernicious trend for scientific journals. It is an appropriate practice for news magazines but not for journals publishing original scientific research.
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