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View Diary: Researchers finally replicated Reinhart-Rogoff, and there are serious problems. (124 comments)

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  •  Empirical tests require reproducible research. (0+ / 0-)

    As a scientist with more than 40 years of research experience, I am well aware of the importance of scientific methodology. But the scientific method requires more than just careful study design. It also requires making sense of the raw results in ways that do not introduce bias or error, and can be validated by other researchers. Hence the importance of math, and of published papers. How else are we to determine whether the findings of the "empirical test" will stand up to scrutiny?

    The gold standard in my world is randomized clinical trials, preferably double-blind, or at least blinded to the evaluators. But even careful empirical testing is worthless if the pathway from raw data to published paper cannot be validated.

    Some problems and questions are not amenable to randomized testing, for example, assessing the effects of potentially toxic and non-beneficial substances in human beings (eg cigarette smoke.) Observational studies pose challenges to researchers, but it is still possible to pose well-thought-out predictions based on theories, and to examine them in studies where evidence could contradict the prediction and thus cast doubt on the theory.

    So you can develop predictions and put them to the test even in, say, epidemiology, which has developed careful methodology for observational studies, or economics. Well-posed questions and careful definition of scientific tests will only take you part-way to believable evidence. You also must have reproducible research.

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