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An Inability to Reproduce

By Samuel Greengard

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 62 No. 9, Pages 13-15

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Science has always hinged on the idea that researchers must be able to prove and reproduce the results of their research. Simply put, that is what makes science...science. Yet in recent years, as computing power has increased, the cloud has taken shape, and data sets have grown, a problem has appeared: it has becoming increasingly difficult to generate the same results consistently—even when researchers include the same dataset.

"One basic requirement of scientific results is reproducibility: shake an apple tree, and apples will fall downwards each and every time," observes Kai Zhang, an associate professor in the department of statistics and operations research at The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. "The problem today is that in many cases, researchers cannot replicate existing findings in the literature and they cannot produce the same conclusions. This is undermining the credibility of scientists and science. It is producing a crisis."


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