Where Do All the Bad Ideas Go? (Freakonomics, M.D. Ep. 12)

November 18, 2021 @ 11:00pm


Ideas are currency. This couldn’t be more true in academia, where it’s the job of researchers to think of questions and, hopefully, find answers. Bapu talks with economists Steve Levitt and Emily Oster about how they come up with ideas for studies, why most never make it off the ground, and what should be done with scrapped projects.

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Relevant Research & References

Here’s where you can learn more about the people and ideas in this episode:


Emily Oster, professor of economics at Brown University.
Steve Levitt, professor of economics at the University of Chicago.


“Analysis of Institutional Conflict of Interest and Bias in Research Findings and Reporting,” by Nathan H. Varady, Christopher M. Worsham, and Anupam B. Jena (Healthcare, 2021).
“How Emily Oster Became One of the Most Respected — and Reviled — Voices of the Pandemic,” by Anna North (Vox, 2021).
“The Negative Issue,” (The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2020).
“Firearm-Related Injuries Drop During N.R.A. Conventions,” by Gene Emery (Reuters, 2018).
“Scientific Citations Favor Positive Results: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” by Bram Duyx, Miriam J.E. Urlings, Gerard M.H. Swaen, Lex M. Bouter, and Maurice P. Zeegers (Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, 2017).
“The American Journal of Gastroenterology Presents ‘The Negative Issue’: Twenty-five Negative Studies that Remind Readers that ‘Negative is Positive,’” by the ACG News Team (2016).
“Estimating the Reproducibility of Psychological Science,” by Open Science Collaboration (Science, 2015).
“Mortality and Treatment Patterns Among Patients Hospitalized With Acute Cardiovascular Conditions During Dates of National Cardiology Meetings,” by Anupam B Jena, Vinay Prasad, Dana P Goldman, and John Romley (JAMA Internal Medicine, 2015).
“Optimal Expectations and Limited Medical Testing: Evidence from Huntington Disease,” by Emily Oster, Ira Shoulson, and E. Ray Dorsey (NBER Working Paper, 2011).
“The Power of TV: Cable Television and Women’s Status in India,” by Emily Oster and Robert Jensen (NBER Working Paper, 2007).
“Winning Isn’t Everything: Corruption in Sumo Wrestling,” by Mark Duggan and Steven D. Levitt (The American Economic Review, 2002).
“The Impact of Legalized Abortion on Crime,” by John J. Donohue III and Steven D. Levitt (The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 2001).
“Publication Decisions Revisited: The Effect of the Outcome of Statistical Tests on the Decision to Publish and Vice Versa,” by T. D. Sterling, W. L. Rosenbaum, and J. J. Weinkam (The American Statistician, 1995).
“The File Drawer Problem and Tolerance for Null Results,” by Robert Rosenthal (Psychological Bulletin, 1979).
A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative, by Roger VonOech (1973).
“The QUEST 1,000 € NULL Results And Replication Study Award.”
Journal of Negative Results.
“Replication Crisis,” by Psychology Today.


Tags: Bapu Jena, Emily Oster, null findings, Steve Levitt

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