The best papers and articles of 2016

These are some of the best scientific papers and articles I’ve read this year. They’re in no particular order and not all of them were written this year. I don’t necessarily agree with them. I’ve divided it into different categories for convenience.


Current Incentives for Scientists Lead to Underpowered Studies with Erroneous Conclusions by Andrew Higginson and Marcus Munafò. How the current way of doing things in science encourages scientists to run lots of small scale studies with low evidentiary value.

Selective Publication of Antidepressant Trials and Its Influence on Apparent Efficacy by Erick Turner, Annette Matthews, Eftihia Linardatos, Robert Tell, and Robert Rosenthal. The paper that drove home for me the suppression of negative trials for the efficacy of antidepressants and how this affected our perception of them.

Why Does the Replication Crisis Seem Worse in Psychology? by Andrew Gelman. Why psychology is at the forefront of the replication crisis.

False positive psychology: Undisclosed Flexibility in Data Collection and Analysis Allows Presenting Anything as Significant by Joseph Simmons, Leif D. Nelson, and Uri Simonsohn. Essential reading for everyone. An excellent demonstration of how damaging some standard research practices can be.

Power failure: why small sample size undermines the reliability of neuroscience by Katherine Button, John Ioannidis, Claire Mokrysz, Brian Nosek, Jonathan Flint, Emma Robinson, & Marcus Munafò. A discussion of the average power of neuroscience studies, what this means, and how to improve the situation. Another must read.

Recommendations for Increasing Replicability in Psychology by Jens B. Asendorpf, Mark Conner, Filip De Fruyt, Jan De Houwer, Jaap Denissen, Klaus Fiedler, Susann Fiedler, David Funder, Reinhold Kliegl, Brian Nosek, Marco Perugini, Brent Roberts, Manfred Schmitt, Marcel van Aken, Hannelore Weber, Jelte M. Wicherts.  A list of how to improve psychology.

Do Learners Really Know Best? Urban Legends in Education by Paul Kirschner & Jeroen van Merriënboer. A critique of some of the myths in education, such as “digital natives” and learning styles.

My position on “Power Poses” by Dana Carney. Dana Carney explains why she no longer believes in the well known phenomenon “power posing”. A rare and important document that should be encouraged and celebrated.

Degrees of Freedom in Planning, Running, Analyzing, and Reporting Psychological Studies: A Checklist to Avoid p-Hacking by Jelte Wicherts, Coosje  Veldkamp, Hilde Augusteijn, Marjan Bakker, Robbie van Aert, and Marcel van Assen. A checklist to consult when reading or designing a study to make sure the authors haven’t engaged in p-hacking. A very useful resource.

Instead of “playing the game” it is time to change the rules: Registered Reports at AIMS Neuroscience and beyond by Christopher Chambers, Eva Feredoes, Suresh Muthukumaraswamy, and Peter Etchells. What Registered Reports are & are not and why they are important for improving psychology.

Replication initiatives will not salvage the trustworthiness of psychology by James Coyne. Why replications, though important, are not enough to save psychology (open data & research methods are also essential)

Saving Science by Daniel Sarewitz. Why scientists need to make their research not only accessible to the public but also applicable, so as to stop science from “self-destructing”.

A Multilab Preregistered Replication of the Ego-Depletion Effect by Martin Hagger and Nikos Chatzisarantis. The paper that undermined the previously rock solid idea of ego-depletion and brought the replication crisis to the public.

Everything is Fucked: The Syllabus by Sanjay Srivastava. A collection of articles demonstrating many of the problems in psychology and associated methodologies.

Why summaries of research on psychological theories are often uninterpretable by Paul Meehl. Seminal paper by Meehl which discusses how ten obfuscating factors undermine psychological theories.


Donald Trump: Moosbrugger for President by David Auerbach. The best analysis of Trump’s personality I’ve read this year.

Hillary Clinton, ‘Smart Power’ and a Dictator’s Fall by Jo Becker and Scott Shane. An exposé on the Libyan intervention and the role Hillary Clinton played.

Your App Isn’t Helping The People Of Saudi Arabia by Felix Biederman. A brief history of how religion came to dominate life in Saudi Arabia, interviews with some of the people negatively affected by this, and how the involvement of tech innovations won’t help.

The Right Has Its Own Version of Political Correctness. It’s Just as Stifling by Alex Nowrasteh. A welcome antidote to the constant message that the left are the only one’s who censor others.

Too Much Stigma, Not Enough Persuasion by Conor Friedersdorf. Why the left’s habit of tearing our own apart is so counterproductive.

When and Why Nationalism Beats Globalism by Jonathan Haidt. When and why globalism loses to nationalism in Western politics.

Democracies end when they are too democratic. And right now, America is a breeding ground for tyranny by Andrew Sullivan. The more democratic a nation becomes, the more vulnerable it is to a demagogue.

How Half Of America Lost Its F**king Mind by David Wong and Trump: Tribune Of Poor White People by Rod Dreher. People who went and spoke to Trump supporters explain why he appeals to them.

It’s NOT the economy, stupid: Brexit as a story of personal values by Eric Kaufmann. How personality affected voting patterns in the British referendum.


A crisis of politics, not economics: complexity, ignorance, and policy failure by Jeffrey Friedman. The libertarian explanation for the financial crash of ’08.

Capitalist Fools by Joseph Stiglitz. The more typical explanation for the ’08 crash.


P-Curve: A Key to the File-Drawer by Uri Simonsohn, Leif D. Nelson, and Joseph P. Simmons. A useful tool to test for publication bias in a series of results.

Statistical points and pitfalls by Jimmie Leppink, Patricia O’Sullivan, and Kal Winston. A series of publications on common statistical errors. Read them so you can avoid these mistakes.

Improving your statistical inferences by Daniel Lakens. I’m kind of cheating with this one (well, totally cheating) but this is the best resource I’ve used to develop my understanding of statistical tests and results.

The Difference Between “Significant” and “Not Significant” is not Itself Statistically Significant by Andrew Gelman and Hal Stern. A relatively simple statistical concept that isn’t as well known as it should be.

Small Telescopes by Uri Simonsohn. A helpful way to interpret studies and design suitably powered replications.


Book Review: Albion’s Seed by Scott Alexander. Review of a book that (kind of) explains the differences in American geopolitics by looking at the different groups of people who settled in America.

There is no language instinct by Vyvyan Evans. A dismantling of the pervasive idea that humans are born with an innate ability to interpret language.

The Failed Promise of Legal Pot by Tom James. How and why decriminalisation of marijuana can fail, as well as the way you need to approach legalisation in order for it to succeed.

Clean eating and dirty burgers: how food became a matter of morals by Julian Baggini. How we moralise food and the negative consequences of this.

The truth about the gender wage gap by Sarah Kliff. The best explanation of why there is a gap in pay between the genders that I’ve read.