Reliability of neuroscience research questioned

New research has questioned the reliability of neuroscience studies, saying that conclusions could be misleading due to small sample sizes.

A team led by academics from the University of Bristol reviewed 48 articles on neuroscience meta-analysis which were published in 2011 and concluded that most had an average power of around 20 per cent – a finding which means the chance of the average study discovering the effect being investigated is only one in five.

The paper, being published in Nature Reviews Neuroscience, reveals that small, low-powered studies are ‘endemic’ in neuroscience, producing unreliable research which is inefficient and wasteful.

It focuses on how low statistical power – caused by low sample size of studies, small effects being investigated, or both – can be misleading and produce more false scientific claims than high-powered studies.

It also illustrates how low power reduces a study’s ability to detect any effects and shows that when discoveries are claimed, they are more likely to be false or misleading.

The paper claims there is substantial evidence that a large proportion of research published in scientific literature may be unreliable as a consequence.

Another consequence is that the findings are overestimated because smaller studies consistently give more positive results than larger studies. This was found to be the case for studies using a diverse range of methods, including brain imaging, genetics and animal studies.

Kate Button, from the School of Social and Community Medicine, and Marcus Munafò, from the School of Experimental Psychology, led a team of researchers from Stanford University, the University of Virginia and the University of Oxford.

She said: “There’s a lot of interest at the moment in improving the reliability of science. We looked at neuroscience literature and found that, on average, studies had only around a 20 per cent chance of detecting the effects they were investigating, even if the effects are real. This has two important implications - many studies lack the ability to give definitive answers to the questions they are testing, and many claimed findings are likely to be incorrect or unreliable.”

The study concludes that improving the standard of results in neuroscience, and enabling them to be more easily reproduced, is a key priority and requires attention to well-established methodological principles.

It recommends that existing scientific practices can be improved with small changes or additions to methodologies, such as acknowledging any limitations in the interpretation of results; disclosing methods and findings transparently; and working collaboratively to increase the total sample size and power.

Ten years ago we would warn students, as a matter of course, not to use Wikipedia—that it was partial, incomplete, open to misrepresentation,” says Tom Lawson, dean of the School of Arts at CalArts. “But over time it’s become much more reliable and much more ubiquitous.

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I Bought A $45,000 Aston Martin With An Unlimited Mileage Warranty
The wait is over. The countdown is finished. The moment has arrived. The #DougCar is here. It’s a 2007 Aston Martin V8 Vantage with a 6-speed manual transmission, and it’s already leaking water into the interior.
By Doug DeMuro

Now, at this point, you’re probably wondering the same thing I was when I discovered that Aston Martin offers unlimited mileage warranties on nine-year-old vehicles, namely: how the hell is this company not in receivership?

Well, after several minutes of careful thought during a Gilmore Girlscommercial break, I believe I’ve discovered the answer: because most Aston Martin owners only drive 3,000 to 5,000 miles per year, regardless of how “unlimited” their warranty is. The result is that “unlimited mileage” really has no bearing on most Aston Martin owners, since they’re limited by their own schedule, or practical concerns, or the weather, or their desire.

This had never occurred to me until I found myself in a conversation with two people – one who sells luxury home theater gear and another who repairs luxury camera equipment. They started sharing horror stories about how unreliable their products were. When I asked why I hadn’t read about any of this online, the home theater salesperson speculated that maybe their owners didn’t use the internet or maybe they just didn’t know any better or that maybe they were too embarrassed to admit that their status symbol was a lemon. We all sat there absorbing these possibilities for a moment before the camera repair person spoke up.

“If you only bring the camera out three to four times a year, you may never know that there’s a problem in the first place.”

Loyalty rules

Loyalty is a big thing for me. Do right by me and you have my loyalty forever. Everyone is human and we all stuff up sometimes; you have to love and forgive family and friends for their little stuff-ups (up to a point of course!) But if it’s business, and you treat me poorly, well, you’ve blown it baby.

Yesterday I was fobbed off by someone I have been patronising and promoting for 15 years. I was affronted and wrote a long post here to let off steam. In the blue light of day, I have deleted the details and left this. But my sentiment still holds and the person who has stepped up to help me out will be getting my custom in future.

Questionable narrators

In a discussion on Frankenstein, a professor mentioned that we should go into the reading thinking about unreliable narrators.

That thought has stuck with me in our discussions of Glee.  This concept that there are so many different characters narrating at different times, each telling their own side of the story…

But not always reliably.

This is most obvious in Shooting Star, where Sue tells the principal one story, but a few minutes later the audience is shown what really happened was rather different.

This is another of those ways in which I think it’s not always the Glee writers who are inconsistent, it’s the Glee characters who sometimes/often have their own reasons to distort the truth.

Storage reliability more important than price, survey says

When it comes to storage, saving money is no longer the number one priority for businesses, a new survey by Western Digital Corporation says.

According to the storage maker’s second annual global survey of CIOs and IT decision-makers, businesses have recognized the positive impact data can have on their bottom line.

Almost three quarters are growing their storage and archiving capacities, while more than 80 per cent are investing in data analytics. Budgets are increasing, as well as build-out initiatives, in order to better store and access data gathered.

More than half of all businesses surveyed are still not storing all the data they need, and 60 per cent are saying that the biggest challenge is being able to quickly access and process data collected.

“The findings of our survey underscore the increasing value of data, where dependable access through reliable storage systems and devices, is more critical than ever before,” said Dave Tang, senior vice president at Western Digital Corporation.

“As data-driven organizations strive to extract more value from their operational and historical data, advanced architectures like Active Archiving enable data to be accessed easily and cost-effectively to transform data into a competitive advantage. With a reputation for quality and reliability, our storage solutions and devices will play a critical role in the infrastructure build out in 2016 and beyond.”

Cloud is trending, the survey suggests, with decision-makers watching it closely, and identifying it as the leading growth area in terms of budget. The Internet of Things is another big trend, with decision-makers saying it’s driving change within data centres, and saying its impact is biggest in energy, finance, IT/telecom, and manufacturing sectors.

Source: [click]

The trouble with friends was that you couldn’t get rid of them. There was no way to take back a friendship in the wake of betrayal or disappointment. The friendship, and everything that went with it, stayed. It just became unreliable, like an abandoned house; you still knew where all the rooms were, and which stairs creaked underfoot, but you had to check every floorboard for rot before trusting your weight to it.
—  Chris Moriarty, Spin State

Reliability means the extent to which a study can be repeated and for consistent results to be found.


  • SPLIT HALF METHOD - this method involves dividing the test or questionnaire into two parts after the data has been obtained from the participants. This can be done by comparing results from odd and even number of questions or comparing the first half of the test with the second half and the two sets are correlated. A high significant positive correlation between the two sets indicates high reliability.

  • TEST RETEST METHOD - this method involves presenting the same participants with the same test or questionnaire on different occasions with no feedback given after the first presentation. For example, giving some participants a questionnaire measuring aggression and then giving the same questionnaire after three months. Correlational techniques are again used to test reliability.


  • INTER RATER RELIABILITY - this is the extent to which more than one observer agrees on the behaviour they have seen. This can be done objectively operationalising categories. For example, telling observers to look for ‘aggression’ is subjective but if you defined this as 'punching’ or 'kicking’ then it is easier to get inter rater reliability.