My Comments on an Economist Article about having Masters Students Reproduce Published Studies

Recently, the Economist had an excellent article about the importance of reproducibility in science, and a new academic journal dedicated to reproducing medical studies.  I believe that reproducibility is critical, and that our institutions of higher education could support this, as I wrote in the following comment:

It would be good for many universities to have Masters students to have the option of repeating a previously published study as part of their graduation requirements. This would help prepare these students to do better original research as part of their doctorate, as well as contribute to the field in a meaningful manner.


  1. Check recent EconTalk episodes for several that talk about this topic in a bit more depth, and go into the statistics as well as the social issues involved. This topic even got covered on Freakonomics recently, although in a more of a pop culture treatment.

  2. The Observer

    You raise two separate issues in your discussion that are mutually exclusive. The first has little to do with the second.

    1. The importance of reproducibility of results is absolutely necessary if the results are to be taken seriously as a predictor of behavior in a relationship involving causation. In sum, results that cannot be replicated from study to study are useless for predicting future events and are likewise worthless for theoretical purposes in explaining the world around us.

    2. Graduate students should be encouraged to replicate previous statistical studies rather than being forced to undertake purely original research. I completely agree. I’ve been in the sad position of being forced to come up with a so-called original idea for a masters thesis which then lead me to to do research so obtuse that it failed to keep my interest. Unfortunately, what I preferred to study had already been researched to death many times over to the extent that it was no longer viewed as a valid research area. Well, why do you think some topics get studied over and over again? It’s because students need to develop a practical understanding of the real world, and some areas are more applicable to the real world in terms of what is truely important. Not allowing important reoccuring issues to be restudied forces students to undertake impractical esoteric learning that the real world could care less about.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *