Do all those popular science-headlines make any sense?

Do young people really have a higher chance of smoking after trying an e-cigarette? Does a natural environment really reduce stress? And are women really afraid to study maths because they think they will fulfil a stereotypic image? For the very first time, NWO (The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research) is funding nine projects that replicate earlier research, one of which is carried out by an Erasmus MC Professor.  

The studies that are being replicated are from health and social sciences and form the basis or subsequent research or have assumed an important place in education, policy forming or public debate. But they also caused some doubt within their fields of research.  The goal of the replications is to increase transparency in research and the quality of reporting of research results, says NWO.

The realization that replications are important has increased since 2015, when a big international project showed that less than half of the most important psychological studies gave the same result after replication. That doesn’t necessarily make the studies unreliable, but if they reported a large enough effect and are replicated closely, the same results should be achieved.

NWO is spending a million euros to realize the replications. It’s a unique initiative, because funding usually goes to brand new research. NWO hopes to thus set an international precedent.


Professor Robin Peeters of Erasmus MC will analyse data from studies on how thyroid hormones influence pregnancy and may cause premature birth. Other studies that are being replicated include whether young people really have a higher chance of smoking tobacco within a year after they tried the e-cigarette, research on the stress-reducing effects of staying in a natural environment for people and whether someone’s pupil size shows how interested someone is.

Three funding rounds

The nine projects are being funded by NWO's pilot programme Replication Studies. A total of 3 million euros is available over three funding rounds. With the pilot programme NWO wants to gain experience that will provide insight into how replication research studies can be effectively included in all research programmes.

Sources: NWO, de Volkskrant