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Big data studies come with replication challenges

The truth can be hard to find with millions of data points and lots of room for error

1:48pm, January 26, 2015
Illustration of a researcher panning for data

FOOL'S GOLD  As researchers pan for nuggets of truth in big data studies, how do they know they haven’t discovered fool’s gold?

In my quest to explore the unknown frontier inside my own body, I stumbled upon one of the most intractable problems facing science.

The issue, irreplicable results, is a dark cloud looming over the life and social sciences. My encounter began when I sent identical stool samples to two microbiome sequencing services (SN Online: 6/17/14). The microbiome is the community of microbes that live in and on the human body, and studies had suggested that it shapes health and even behavior. My goal was to find out what bacteria inhabit my intestines, the most microbe-packed part of the body.



















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