Observing many researchers using the same data and hypothesis reveals a hidden universe of uncertainty

Nate Breznau, et al.

PNAS 119 (44) e2203150119

Will different researchers converge on similar findings when analyzing the same data? Seventy-three independent research teams used identical cross-country survey data to test a prominent social science hypothesis: that more immigration will reduce public support for government provision of social policies. Instead of convergence, teams’ results varied greatly, ranging from large negative to large positive effects of immigration on social policy support. The choices made by the research teams in designing their statistical tests explain very little of this variation; a hidden universe of uncertainty remains. Considering this variation, scientists, especially those working with the complexities of human societies and behavior, should exercise humility and strive to better account for the uncertainty in their work.

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