There’s a debate raging in science about what should count as “significant”

August 4th, 2017
by The Feeder

Enlarge (credit: flickr user: Artiom Gorgan)

Psychology and many related fields are in the midst of what can be viewed as a coming-of-age crisis. Following a stream of depressing revelations about a lack of reliability in the field, lots of researchers are dedicating themselves to improving the discipline’s rigor.

The latest proposal to up that rigor is a big one: 72 researchers from a range of disciplines have drafted a manuscript arguing that the threshold for claiming “statistical significance” should become much stricter. There’s often a fair amount of consensus on how science could be improved, but this suggestion has stimulated some intense debate.

Statistical significance in a very small nutshell

Statistical significance is a concept underlying a huge amount of science—not just psychology or social sciences, but medicine, life sciences, and physical sciences, too. “Significance” used in this way doesn’t mean the importance or size of a finding, rather it’s the probability of that finding showing up in your data even though your hypothesis turns out to be wrong.

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