Adam Ruins Everything Episode 38: Professor Brian Nosek On Science's Reproducibility Crisis and Opportunity


We've seen it time and time again. A journal publishes a seemingly significant scientific study which gains traction in the press only to be subsequently deemed irreproducible. This pattern is known as the reproducibility crisis, and our guest, University of Virginia Professor Brian Nosek, is trying to awaken the scientific community and the public at large to these challenges. Brian says the reproducibility crisis is not a new problem. Because scientists' career advancement is contingent on publication, the community is incentivized to create studies that tell a positive, novel and tidy story, known as publication bias, and leave findings out of publications that don't advance their conclusions.
In response, Brian, who appeared on Adam Ruins Science, founded the Reproducibility Project, which tried to replicate the results of 100 psychological experiments published in respected journals in 2008. In 2015, their results were published in Science and found that only 36 out of the 100 replications showed statistically significant results, compared with 97 of the 100 original experiments.
Some of this sounds discouraging and might make us doubt science. But the reality is that research is difficult and lab results are often messy and many times don't fit into neat categories. Brian argues that's actually the beauty of science and we should look at this issue as less of a crisis and more as an opportunity. When we realize we're wrong about our ideas about the world, it forces us to realign our worldview and think about our surroundings from a different perspective. Being wrong only gets us closer to being right!

Adam is on Twitter @AdamConover and you can find past episodes and bonus content from the TruTV show at
Produced by Shara Morris for