Interesting article by Stuart Buck from Arnold Ventures, which has been a major funder in open and replicable science.
Science has two stark problems: replication and innovation. Many scientific findings aren’t reproducible. That is to say, you can’t be sure that another study or experiment on the same question would get similar results. At the same time, the pace of scientific innovation could be slowing down.
Does attempting to solve one problem make the other worse? Many have argued that policies seeking to avoid reproducibility issues will create a constrictive atmosphere that inhibits innovation and discovery.
Indeed, top policymakers are worried about just this. Along with other prominent philanthropists and academics, I attended a White House meeting on scientific reproducibility early in 2020 (just before COVID-19 really hit). One of the key questions on a sheet of paper that the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy circulated for discussion was whether a tradeoff existed: Would efforts to improve reproducibility risk harming the creativity and innovation of federally-funded research?
I do not think there’s a contradiction between reproducibility and innovation. Contrary to common belief, we can improve both at once – by incentivizing failed results, and by funding “Red Teams” that would aim to refute existing dogma or would be entirely outside it.
Improving reproducibility and innovation isn’t easy, to be sure. But science policy and science funders could do both at once by demanding more null results, and by substantially funding efforts to contradict groupthink and confirmation bias. And this would help all of society get more value out of the many billions of dollars that we collectively spend on science every year.