,_October_16,_2007.jpg Science journalist Carl Zimmer recently wrote in Slate about the issue of non-reproducible results in various scientific disciplines. In particular, he cites a famous study of a purportedly cancer-causing gene, SATB1, which could not be reproduced. Zimmer generously rules out intentional fraud as the culprit, instead pointing his finger at the tendency to ignore or diminish negative data for the sake of publication.

Most scientists can probably name a prominent paper that the majority of their subfield agrees isn’t completely true. One of the most shocking things to me when I started laboratory research was when a senior graduate student told me not to use a published protocol because no one could reproduce it. Luckily, advances in my field, noble metal nanoparticles, are unlikely to make it into a the popular media. When papers relating to human health have problematic findings, the results can be disastrous, as in the notorious study linking the MMR vaccine to autism in children.