For better science, call off the revolutionaries

Pardis Sabeti in the Boston Globe:

ScreenHunter_2940 Jan. 21 18.49EVEN IN SCIENCE, revolutions often go far beyond reason. This year, let’s hope that scientists of all stripes — but especially social psychologists — will slow down and start approaching one another with greater respect.

For decades, the field of social psychology has captured the public imagination with high-profile research into how humans interact. Will people obey authority figures even when it involves hurting others? How do stereotypes shape human interactions? Are facial expressions of emotion universal across cultures? All of these are questions that social psychology tries to answer. But the field is in the midst of a revolution that could end up destroying new ideas before they are fully explored — a cautionary tale not just for this field, but for all of science.

Spurred by new methods and statistical techniques, a group of “revolutionaries” — scientists and Internet bloggers both inside and outside the field — have taken it upon themselves to weed out “faulty” science. In forums such as the websites Data Colada, Replicability-Index, and Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science, scholars are being urged to focus on replicating the results of past studies and to reconsider their own findings if subsequent research undercuts them. Done responsibly, the revolution is something all scientists could agree is fundamental to advance the field, enabling robust and verifiable discoveries about human psychology, behavior, and biology.

Like many revolutions, however, it has not been a peaceful one.

More here.