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Stapel. Social Psychology. Science.

November 29, 2012

Last Evening, I found an Open Science email from Brian Nosek.  Content was a link to the final Stapel report. I read through it – not word by word for lots of stretches, of course, but enough. (I have read the initial report).

What jumped out was a discussion of blame – which evidently has been lifted out in the press release (Read Sanjay Srivastava’s critique here,)  They hold his PhD’s blameless. (Some of them have received PhD’s on entirely faked data!). They were in a position of dependence and would not be expected to know better. (They are changing their practices so that new doctoral students will have more than one advisor). But, they are indicting (unnamed) co-authors, journal editors, and actually Social Psychology. Now, yes, there are people who ought to be a bit embarrassed (there was an example of t-tests reported that were nonsensical:  t’s less than one, but p values in the significance area – nobody caught it), although I can kinda see how this happens, knowing, um, social psychology. Science also has an article about the report here, lifting up the sloppiness. (I love the tweet header – Sanjay’s I would think – that lead me there though.” Social psych doesn’t understand basic stats, suffers from confirm bias, say statisticans from N=1 case of known fraud”)

But there is also the blame on an entire field, which is a bit too much to stomach, really, considering that it is also populated by plenty of researchers who want to do good research, and are doing good research.  They do mention the open science project, as well as other forces working on improving and strengthening the field (as I have mentioned).

But, it has a rather pronounced undertone of singling out Social Psychology as being cavalier with scientific practices, which is kind of blind. Social Psychology is NOT the only field beset by these problems. Ben Goldacre just published a book on bad research practices/publications in the medical field, Retraction Watch is filled with retractions from all over the spectrum, and how should we judge the co-workers, peer-reviewers and journal editors (Science and Nature!) after the Spectacle of Jan Hendrik Schön’s spectacular physics fraud at Bell Labs? (Which I see as quite comparable to Stapel).

I think it is necessary, of course, to lift up that there were sloppy practices, and we should not excuse sloppy practices (recall the video I posted last week), and we need to be vigilant as to not reward sloppy practices, but, this is not just Social Psychology.

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One Comment
  1. Reblogged this on Ambitious Women in the Academic World and commented:

    The Stapel Report is out. I have some comments and links here.

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