Amy Cuddy and the coming wave of scientific recriminations

I have seen Amy Cuddy’s presentation; she speaks well, has a compelling argument, and a research study that she published in 2010 that backed up her assertions. It made sense, and “power posing” became something I thought about at times.

Since then, there has been this backlash; the article speaks about it in detail, that is a personal attack on Dr. Cuddy, which is mostly unfounded, and is tragic for her career, and I am hopeful for her resilience and rebound.

However, much more concerning is the implication for all social science research and indeed all research; the critique about replication of findings and the over-reliance on the p-value in research. Most studies rely on a p-value of “0.05” indicating that the likelihood that a finding in a study represents a real effect in the entire population that was not studied (for example, studying 100 patients where there are 10,000 patients who were not studied, and it would be unrealistic to study all 10,000), should show that it is highly unlikely that the results would occur as a result of sampling error.

The critique is that, before publishing, researchers should REPLICATE their findings, or better yet, have others replicate their findings. The challenge here is that research is already slow, plodding (it can take years to write and submit a grant, suffer the indignity of a very small chance of getting funded months or years later, conduct the study over a year or 3, then spend time writing up the results, submit the paper, hope that some journal somewhere accepts it), and with long delays before results are accepted and published. Now consider the requested addition of replication: do this AGAIN in a different setting, a different population of patients and then combine or compare the results.

Shall we double the grant funding of all results so that we can do this? Is research funding not scant enough as it is (some colleagues have a 1:500 chance of funding their research at current funding levels)?

CMIO’s take? Not an easy question to answer. I think there is a lose-lose proposition coming out of this discussion, with no clear path forward.

Author: CT Lin

CMIO, UCHealth (Colorado); Professor, University of Colorado School of Medicine

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