When a group of British academic researchers reported last spring that women fond of eating breakfast cereal were more likely to give birth to boys, the story was lapped up by journalists the world over. "Skip breakfast for a daughter, eat up your cereals for a son," advised the Economist, just one of many publications to seize on the report.
The problem with this fascinating study? It appears to be wrong. An analysis led by Stan Young of the National Institute for Statistical Sciences found that the original conclusion was based on poor statistics and is probably the result of chance.
That [Young's rebuttal] is ignored by many of the media outlets that lavished attention on the original report isn't surprising; in fact, the most remarkable thing is how ordinary that lack of attention may be. A lot of science, it turns out, can't withstand serious scrutiny.
Thoughtful analysis by John Ioannidis suggests that more than half of published scientific research findings can't be replicated by other researchers.