That’s the contention of Dr. John Ioannidis in this Wall Street Journal piece. Why does he think so? Mainly because of self-serving data analysis. Quoting from the article, “Overeager researchers often tinker too much with the statistical variables of their analysis to coax any meaningful insight from their data sets. ‘People are messing around with the data to find anything that seems significant, to show they have found something that is new and unusual,’ Dr. Ioannidis said.”

This seems to be another aspect of the difficulty that public choice analysis has identified with government officials, namely that their actions, although proclaimed to be in “the public interest” are more often than not driven by self-interest. With regard to scientists, we aren’t usually talking about public officials, but instead people whose careers depend on what officials and other influential individuals think of their work. The scientist who diligently researches something and finds nothing of importance to report puts himself at a disadvantage in the quest for future grants compared to the scientist who tortures the data to come up with a dubious conclusion that will attract attention.