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Are Most Published Research Findings False?

  • Andreas Diekmann


    (ETH Zuerich)

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.

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Article provided by Justus-Liebig University Giessen, Department of Statistics and Economics in its journal Journal of Economics and Statistics.

Volume (Year): 231 (2011)
Issue (Month): 5-6 (November)
Pages: 628-635

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Handle: RePEc:jns:jbstat:v:231:y:2011:i:5-6:p:628-635
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  1. Christopher S. Ruebeck & Joseph E. Harrington, Jr. & Robert Moffitt, 2006. "Handedness and Earnings," NBER Working Papers 12387, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  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 118-23, February.
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