The “replication crisis” in the public eye: Germans’ awareness and perceptions of the (ir)reproducibility of scientific research

Abstract

Several meta-analytical attempts to reproduce results of empirical research have failed in recent years, prompting scholars and news media to diagnose a “replication crisis” and voice concerns about science losing public credibility. Others, in contrast, hoped replication efforts could improve public confidence in science. Yet nationally representative evidence backing these concerns or hopes is scarce. We provide such evidence, conducting a secondary analysis of the German “Science Barometer” (“Wissenschaftsbarometer”) survey. We find that most Germans are not aware of the “replication crisis.” In addition, most interpret replication efforts as indicative of scientific quality control and science’s self-correcting nature. However, supporters of the populist right-wing party AfD tend to believe that the “crisis” shows one cannot trust science, perhaps using it as an argument to discredit science. But for the majority of Germans, hopes about reputational benefits of the “replication crisis” for science seem more justified than concerns about detrimental effects.

Publication
In Public Understanding of Science, 30(1), 91–102.
Germans’ perceptions of replication failures and replication efforts.
N = 965−983; percentages based on weighted frequencies.

Germans’ perceptions of replication failures and replication efforts.
N = 965−983; percentages based on weighted frequencies.

Niels G. Mede
Niels G. Mede
Science Communication Researcher

I am a Senior Research and Teaching Associate at the Department of Communication and Media Research (IKMZ) of the University of Zurich, where I also completed a PhD in communication studies. My work focuses on science communication, public opinion, populism, digital media, climate change communication, and survey methodology. In 2022 and 2023, I was a visiting researcher at the Department of Life Sciences Communication of the University of Wisconsin—Madison and the Oxford Internet Institute. In June 2024, I join the Digital Media Research Centre of the Queensland University of Technology as a visiting scholar.