Bite-Size Science, False Positives, and Citation Amnesia

The Chronicle of Higher Education:

There are good things about short psychology papers. They’re easier to edit and review, not to mention less time-consuming to write. A short paper on a CV looks just as impressive as a long one. Also, a short paper is more likely to be noticed by reporters with little to no attention span—especially if the result is interestingly contrarian—and thus bring the researcher widespread acclaim and riches. Or at least a mention in some blog.

The downside is that they tend to be wrong, at least according to a short paper titled “Bite-Size Science and Its Undesired Side Effects.” That’s because, the authors write, short papers often include experiments with smaller sample sizes, which have a higher probability of false positives. They’re more likely to suffer from “citation amnesia,” that is, the omission of previous studies that might provide context. These get left out because authors are trying to keep it tight and snappy but also because “a finding is bound to sound more newsworthy when the discussion of previous relevant work is less detailed.”

Read the whole story: The Chronicle of Higher Education

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