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Current Incentives for Scientists Lead to Underpowered Studies with Erroneous Conclusions

Fig 1

Fitness landscape for an individual researcher.

An individual researcher is able to choose the parameters θ (y-axis) and SE; the x-axis shows the resultant power of exploratory studies, WE. White indicates high fitness, black low fitness. For small values of SE, few papers are accepted, while for high values of SE, few studies are carried out. For low values of θ, few novel studies are carried out. (A) γ = 0.09, ϕ = 0.9. The optimal strategy that maximises individual fitness is therefore to carry out many small exploratory studies with a power of around 15%. (B) γ = 0.055, ϕ = 0.55. A mixture of exploratory and confirmatory work should be carried out with slightly higher power (20%).

Fig 1

doi: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.2000995.g001