Reasons to implement replication to the Research Masters Program.

As you may know, psychology has been in a state of crisis in the last years. Social psychology, for example has been shaken by several cases of scientific fraud and there have been other allegations of ‘bad research’. However, the problem of ‘bad research’ is a more general problem. In addition to fraudulent research; questionable research practices (QRPs) or the selective reporting of positive results have broadly distorted the interpretation of scientific data. In some cases, the distortion between what the data are and what the data are interpreted to be is so large that current research cannot be used by the private sector. For example, the pharmaceutical company Bayer reports that they are unable to use ‘scientific findings’ from universities, stating that sometimes as many as 75% of the results cannot be reproduced. This means that some of the ‘knowledge’ that universities produce is inaccurate or false, too unreliable to develop new medication.

However, psychology needs reliable results, if we want to apply psychology to gian something from it. Therefore, I think it is necessary and urgent that universities start to to implement replication into psychology via education. We are likely to need a lot of researcher that can replicate in the future, because many studies indicate that replication rates in psychology and other sciences are low (see Begley and Ellis, 2012). Psychology needs an overhaul in order to advance as a science and therefore it needs a lot of researchers who are able to adequately replicate studies. However, they will not appear out of nowhere. If we do not educate people, we risk that psychology gets a bad reputation among scientists and it may hurt the ties to the private sector. The private sector will not invest in a field that cannot produce applicable, reliable science, which will affect funding for psychological research negatively in the long run.

In order to make the process of reviewing and advancing our science easier, universities should raise a new generation of scientists that is able to increase the reliability of scientific findings by replication. This can only happen if universities provides the means to educate students who are willing and capable to do this. Replication is a corner stone of science and formal education is needed to do it.

Begley, C. G., & Ellis, L. M. (2012). Raise standards for preclinical cancer research. Nature, 483, 531–533.

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