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John Ioannidis discusses the popularity of his paper examining the reliability of scientific research

Back in August 2005, Stanford professor John Ioannidis, MD, DSc, published “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False” in PLOS Medicine. The article surpassed one million views last April and, as recently reported in a Q&A on the journal’s Speaking of Medicine blog, it’s “the first PLOS article – research or other – to reach this milestone.”

In the interview, Ioannidis, co-director of the new Meta-Research Innovation Center at Stanford, discusses his motivation for writing about the issue and why he believes the article has remained relevant over the years. On the topic of the most surprising result or outcome of the paper, he says:

Possibly the most unexpected corollary is that more popular research fields are less credible. Several people have misunderstood this statement. This corollary holds when scientists work in silos, and each one is trying to outpace the others, finding significance in his/her own results without sharing and combining information.

The opposite holds true when scientists join forces to examine the cumulative evidence. Sadly, in most fields the siloed investigator writing grants where he promises that he/she alone will discover something worthy of the Nobel Prize is still the dominant paradigm. This sort of principal investigator culture is a problem, especially for popular fields where the literature is flooded with tens of thousands of irreproducible papers.

Previously: A discussion on the reliability of scientific research, New Stanford center aims to promote research excellence, The Lancet documents waste in research, proposes solutions and “U.S. effect” leads to publication of biased research, says Stanford’s John Ioannidis

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