Monday, April 8, 2019

A (mostly) positive framing of open science reforms

I don't often get the chance to talk directly and openly to people who are skeptical of the methodological reforms that are being suggested in psychology. But recently I've been trying to persuade someone I really respect that these reforms are warranted. It's a challenge, but one of the things I've been trying to do is give a positive, personal framing to the issues. Here's a stab at that. 

My hope is that a new graduate student in the fields I work on – language learning, social development, psycholinguistics, cognitive science more broadly – can pick up a journal and choose a seemingly strong study, implement it in my lab, and move forward with it as the basis for a new study. But unfortunately my experience is that this has not been the case much of the time, even in cases where it should be. I would like to change that, starting with my own work.

Here's one example of this kind of failure: As a first-year assistant professor, a grad student and I tried to replicate one of my grad school advisors' well-known studies. We failed repeatedly – despite the fact that we ended up thinking the finding was real (eventually published as Lewis & Frank, 2016, JEP:G). The issue was likely that the original finding was an overestimate of the effect, because the original sample was very small. But converging on the truth was very difficult and required multiple iterations.