Professor John Ioannidis, Stanford University

Professor John Ioannidis, Stanford University

Joint EMBL Forum/Distinguished Visitor Lecture event
Thursday, 18 July 2019 at 14:00 in the Large Operon, EMBL Heidelberg

Professor John Ioannidis, Stanford University

Unpacking irreproducibility in science


There is a perceived irreproducibility crisis in science, although there is no agreement on how recent or old the problem is, and there is very different perceptions about what reproducibility means. The lecture will discuss different definitions and aspects of reproducibility and will dissect the implications and consequences of irreproducibility. Many solutions to these problems have been proposed, but their level of documentation varies substantially across and between scientific fields. We will discuss different solutions that have been proposed to enhance the credibility and usefulness of research effort. Many of these solutions are already effective and have improved the performance of multiple scientific fields while others are more speculative and they require careful testing before their adoption. Emphasis will be made on basic biomedical sciences, although the challenges cover all scientific fields and comparative data will be presented across different disciplines.


John Ioannidis is C.F. Rehnborg Chair in Disease Prevention at Stanford University, Professor of Medicine, Professor of Health Research and Policy, and Professor (by courtesy) of Biomedical Data Science at the School of Medicine; Professor (by courtesy) of Statistics at the School of Humanities and Sciences; co-Director, Meta-Research Innovation Center at Stanford; Director of the PhD program in Epidemiology and Clinical Research.

Born in New York City in 1965 and raised in Athens, Greece. Valedictorian (1984) at Athens College; National Award of the Greek Mathematical Society (1984); MD (top rank of medical school class) from the National University of Athens in 1990; also received DSc in biopathology from the same institution. Trained at Harvard and Tufts (internal medicine and infectious diseases), then held positions at NIH, Johns Hopkins and Tufts. Chaired the Department of Hygiene and Epidemiology, University of Ioannina Medical School in 1999-2010 (tenured professor since 2003) while also holding adjunct professor positions at Harvard School of Public Health, Tufts, and Imperial College. Senior Advisor on Knowledge Integration at NCI/NIH (2012-6). Served as President, Society for Research Synthesis Methodology, and editorial board member of many leading journals (including PLoS Medicine, Lancet, Annals of Internal Medicine, JNCI, Science Translational Medicine, Clinical Chemistry, Molecular and Cellular Proteomics, AIDS, IJE, JCE, Clinical Trials, and PLoS ONE, among others) and as Editor-in-Chief of the European Journal of Clinical Investigation (2010-now). Delivered ~500 invited and honorary lectures. Recipient of many awards (e.g. European Award for Excellence in Clinical Science [2007], Medal for Distinguished Service, Teachers College, Columbia University [2015], Chanchlani Global Health Award [2017], Epiphany Science Courage Award [2018], Einstein fellow [2018]). Inducted in the Association of American Physicians (2009), European Academy of Cancer Sciences (2010) American Epidemiological Society (2015), European Academy of Sciences and Arts (2015), National Academy of Medicine (2018). Honorary titles from FORTH (2014) and Ioannina (2015) and honorary doctorates from Rotterdam (2015) and Athens (2017). Multiple honorary lectureships/visiting professorships (Caltech, Oxford, LSHTM, Yale, U Utah, U Conn, UC Davis, U Penn among others).

The PLoS Medicine paper on “Why most published research findings are false” has been the most-accessed article in the history of Public Library of Science (>2.5 million hits). Author of 7 literary books in Greek, two of which (Toccata for the Girl with the Burnt Face (Kedros 2012) and Variations on the Art of the Fugue and a Desperate Ricercar (Kedros 2014)) were shortlisted for best book of the year Anagnostis awards. Brave Thinker scientist for 2010 according to Atlantic, “may be one of the most influential scientists alive”. Highly Cited Researcher according to Thomson Reuters in both Clinical Medicine and in Social Sciences. Citation indices: h=173, m=7 per Google Scholar (h=139 per WoS and Scopus). Current citation rates: >3,000 new citations per month per Google Scholar, >1,500 new citations per month per Scopus or Web of Knowledge.

Current citation rates suggest that I am among the 10 scientists worldwide who are currently the most commonly cited, perhaps also the currently most-cited physician. This probably only proves that citation metrics are highly unreliable, since I estimate that I have been rejected over 1,000 times in my life. Regardless, I consider myself privileged to have learned and to continue to learn from interactions with students and young scientists (of all ages) from all over the world and I love to be constantly reminded that I know next to nothing.