In defense of the replication movement

#1
https://slate.com/technology/2018/01/in-...ement.html

EXCERPT: A leading biologist at Harvard, Pardis Sabeti, has called out the replication movement in psychology, calling it a “cautionary tale” of how efforts to reform research may “end up destroying new ideas before they are fully explored.” Her argument, in short, is that the “vicious” debate over statistical errors in that field has only stymied further progress. There’s “a better way forward,” Sabeti says, “through evolution, not revolution.” [...]

Sabeti’s call to end the revolution, which appeared in Sunday’s Boston Globe, has been ballyhooed by several of her well-known campus colleagues. “Put a lid on the aggression & call off the social media hate mobs,” wrote Steven Pinker on Twitter. Sabeti “has written one of the smartest essays about the politics of social psychology that I’ve ever read,” said Daniel Gilbert. “Compelling piece … on how 2 scientific fields made major course corrections,” said Atul Gawande.

These kudos are misguided. While Sabeti makes it sound as if the reformers in psychology all behave like bullies, that’s far from the truth. She also suggests changes in genomics were implemented without rancor, as if rival scientists came together to sing Kumbaya. That’s not true, either. The current revolution in psychology, like the one that happened in genomics, isn’t under anyone’s command. [...]

Who, exactly, are the marauding revolutionaries behind the attacks above? Follow the links on the Globe’s website and you’ll find that seven of Sabeti’s 10 examples come from a single source: Columbia statistician Andrew Gelman. Six are from his blog; the seventh appeared in an article he co-authored with Kaiser Fung for Slate. Two more examples are drawn from anonymous commenters on Gelman’s blog, and the last is pulled from an article by FiveThirtyEight’s (scrupulous, award-winning) science journalist Christie Aschwanden.

In other words, when Sabeti talks about a suffocating atmosphere of terror in social psychology, she’s referring almost entirely to critiques from one professor, who happens not to be a member of that field, along with some readers of his blog....

MORE: https://slate.com/technology/2018/01/in-...ement.html
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#2
(Jan 24, 2018 01:12 AM)C C Wrote: A leading biologist at Harvard, Pardis Sabeti, has called out the replication movement in psychology, calling it a “cautionary tale” of how efforts to reform research may “end up destroying new ideas before they are fully explored.” Her argument, in short, is that the “vicious” debate over statistical errors in that field has only stymied further progress.

I think that the 'replication crisis' applies in all of science. A significant percentage of the results reported in the journals can't be replicated. And I'd guess that things are even worse than they seem, since nobody even tries to replicate a lot of it. Replicating other researchers' work is perceived as 'hack work' and it isn't the way for young and ambitious researchers to make names for themselves. They feel that they need to be doing original research.

But my opinion is that social psychology is especially prone to these kind of problems, in large part because of confirmation-bias. Like the so-called "social sciences" in general, social psychology kind of straddles the border between objective science and political rhetoric. So particular results become associated with particular political programs, beliefs and identities, and there's often great motivation to design studies to return predetermined 'politically correct' results.

Quote:“Put a lid on the aggression & call off the social media hate mobs,” wrote Steven Pinker on Twitter.

That's good advice. But Steven Pinker needs to look in the mirror when he says it, because he's been hugely aggressive and hate-filled in his own comments about Donald Trump. And that's precisely the problem. Many people can't really perceive their own prejudices and irrationalities. And I would wager that particular problem is especially acute for university professors, since they occupy an environment where everyone around them agrees with their prejudices and there is no diversity of opinion. Hence there's often little need for intellectual self-discipline. And lack of intellectual self-discipline contributes greatly to production of irreproducible results.
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