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Are Most Published Research Findings False?


  • Diekmann Andreas

    () (ETH Zürich – Soziologie, CLU D 3, Clausiusstrasse 50, 8092 Zurich, Schweiz)


In a provocative article Ioannidis (2005) argues that, in disciplines employing statistical tests of significance, professional journals report more wrong than true significant results. This short note sketches the argument and explores under what conditions the assertion holds. The “positive predictive value” (PPV) is lower than 1/2 if the a priori probability of the truth of a hypothesis is low. However, computation of the PPV includes only significant results. If both significant and non-significant results are taken into account the “total error ratio” (TER) will not exceed 1/2 provided no extremely large publication bias is present. Moreover, it is shown that theory-driven research may reduce the proportion of errors. Also, the role of replications is emphasized; replication studies of original research are so important because they drastically decrease the error ratio.

Suggested Citation

  • Diekmann Andreas, 2011. "Are Most Published Research Findings False?," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), De Gruyter, vol. 231(5-6), pages 628-635, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:jns:jbstat:v:231:y:2011:i:5-6:p:628-635

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Christopher S. Ruebeck & Joseph E. Harrington, Jr & Robert Moffitt, 1997. "Handedness and Earnings," Economics Working Paper Archive 533, The Johns Hopkins University,Department of Economics, revised Jun 2004.
    2. Dewald, William G & Thursby, Jerry G & Anderson, Richard G, 1986. "Replication in Empirical Economics: The Journal of Money, Credit and Banking Project," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 587-603, September.
    3. Kramer, Walter, et al, 1985. "Diagnostic Checking in Practice," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 67(1), pages 118-123, February.
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