Proteus phenomenon
n. The tendency for early findings in a new area of research to alternate between opposite conclusions.

Example Citations:
Proteus is a sea god in Greek Mythology. He could change his shape at will. The Proteus phenomenon refers to early extreme contradictory estimates in published research.
—Chaomei Chen, Turning Points: The Nature of Creativity," Springer, December 27, 2011

The Proteus phenomenon which certainly applies here definitely provides irrefutable proof that AGW is more social than science.
—Wagathon, "Part 2 of 'On Sallenger et al (2012) — Hotspot of Accelerated Sea Level Rise on the Atlantic Coast of North America'" (comment), Watts Up With That?, July 1, 2012

Earliest Citation:
This progress provides fascinating opportunities for the rapid production and dissemination of scienti?c information, but may result in an increasing number of studies reporting very contradictory conclusions in short sequence. We suggest that this rapid, early succession of extreme findings may be called the Proteus phenomenon after the mythologic god who rapidly metamorphosed himself to very different figures.
—John P.A. Ioannidis and Thomas A. Trikalinos, "Early extreme contradictory estimates may appear in published research: The Proteus phenomenon in molecular genetics research and randomized trials," Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, October 8, 2004


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