PerspectiveSTATISTICS

Measurement error and the replication crisis

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Science  10 Feb 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6325, pp. 584-585
DOI: 10.1126/science.aal3618

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Summary

Measurement error adds noise to predictions, increases uncertainty in parameter estimates, and makes it more difficult to discover new phenomena or to distinguish among competing theories. A common view is that any study finding an effect under noisy conditions provides evidence that the underlying effect is particularly strong and robust. Yet, statistical significance conveys very little information when measurements are noisy. In noisy research settings, poor measurement can contribute to exaggerated estimates of effect size. This problem and related misunderstandings are key components in a feedback loop that perpetuates the replication crisis in science.