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Experimental replication orReproducibility is one of the main principles of the scientific method, and refers to the ability of a test or experiment to be accurately reproduced, or replicated, by someone else working independently. Replicated findings can then contribute to a scientific consensus in the area.
The results of an experiment performed by a particular researcher or group of researchers are generally evaluated by other independent researchers who repeat the same experiment themselves, based on the original experimental description. Then they see if their experiment gives similar results to those reported by the original group. The result values are said to be commensurate if they are obtained (in distinct experimental trials) according to the same reproducible experimental description and procedure.
Reproducibility is different from repeatability, which measures the success rate in successive experiments, possibly conducted by the same experimenters. Reproducibility relates to the agreement of test results with different operators, test apparatus, and laboratory locations. It is often reported as a standard deviation.
While repeatability of scientific experiments is desirable, it is not considered necessary to establish the scientific validity of a theory. For example, the cloning of animals is difficult to repeat, but has been reproduced by various teams working independently, and is a well established research domain. One failed cloning does not mean that the theory is wrong or unscientific. Repeatability is often low in protosciences.
The basic idea can be seen in Aristotle's dictum that there is no scientific knowledge of the individual, where the word used for individual in Greek had the connotation of the idiosyncratic, or wholly isolated occurrence. Thus all knowledge, all science, necessarily involves the formation of general concepts and the invocation of their corresponding symbols in language (cf. Turner).
The term reproducible research was first proposed by Jon Claerbout at Stanford University and refers to the idea that the ultimate product of research is the paper along with the full computational environment used to produce the results in the paper such as the code, data, etc. necessary for reproduction of the results and building upon the research.
- Experimental instructions
- Scientific method
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- Turner, William (1903), History of Philosophy, Ginn and Company, Boston, MA, Etext. See especially: "Aristotle".
- Definition (PDF), by International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry
- Guidelines for Evaluating and Expressing the Uncertainty of NIST Measurement Results; appendix D
- Definition of reproducibility in the IUPAC Gold Book
- Detailed article on Reproducibility
- Reproducible Research Planet
- Journal of Irreproducible Results (Spoof)
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