Scientists Say: Replication

When doing science, replication is more than just a copy

copy cats

In science, copy cats can be a good thing. Scientists need to be able to run the same experiment over and over and get the same result. 

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Replication (noun, “REP-lih-KAY-shun”)

In scientific experiments, this word refers to the attempt of scientists to repeat an experiment with the hopes of getting the same result as in the previous testing. To do this, the later team of scientists must repeat all of the same steps of the first experiment, in the same order and with the same materials. Many scientists can do an experiment and get a result once. But a scientific finding isn’t accepted as being true or reliable unless other scientists can replicate it. If a finding can be replicated, it is also called reproducible.

It may seem like replication would be easy. Often, it’s not. There are many tiny changes that could make the difference between success and failure.

In a sentence

A study may not get replicated, but that does not mean that anyone was dishonest.  

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Power Words

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replication   (in experimentation) Getting the same result as an earlier test or experiment — often an earlier test performed by someone else. Replication depends upon repeating every step of a test, step by step. If a repeated experiment generates the same result as in earlier trials, scientists view this as verifying that the initial result is reliable. If results differ, the initial findings may fall into doubt. Generally, a scientific finding is not fully accepted as being real or true without replication.

reproducibility (in science)   The ability of a researcher to independently recreate an experiment or study, under the same conditions, and yield the same results.

Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.