Donald S. Kornfeld & Sandra L. Titus
Originally posted 31 August 2016
The history of science shows that irreproducibility is not a product of our times. Some 350 years ago, the chemist Robert Boyle penned essays on “the unsuccessfulness of experiments”. He warned readers to be sceptical of reported work. “You will meet with several Observations and Experiments, which ... may upon further tryal disappoint your expectation.” He attributed the problem to a 'lack of skill in the scientist and the lack of purity of the ingredients', and what would today be referred to as inadequate statistical power.
By 1830, polymath Charles Babbage was writing in more cynical terms. In Reflections on the Decline of Science in England, he complains of “several species of impositions that have been practised in science”, namely “hoaxing, forging, trimming and cooking”.
In other words, irreproducibility is the product of two factors: faulty research practices and fraud.
The article is here.