What Causes a Person to Become an “Open Science Convert”?
From the blog “Reflections of an open science convert. 1: Why I changed my research practices” (Part 1 of a 3-part series) by Ineke Wessel, posted at Mindwise]
“Five years after Stapel’s fraud first became known, I came across Brian Wansink’s blog posts about how exploring data in every possible way can get you publications. The scientific community responded with outrage. On the one hand, Wansink’s data-dredging seemed far more extreme than the post-hoc analyses I used to do. On the other hand, I wondered what exactly, apart from the scale (huge) and intent (find a positive result no matter what), the differences were between me and him.”
“As I browsed the internet, an online lecture by Zoltan Dienes caught my attention. Dienes described the problem that Gelman & Loken (2014) refer to as the garden of forking paths: the idea that every potential, often seemingly arbitrary decision in data analysis (e.g., how to construct a score; what to do with outliers) contributes to a different end-result. Indeed, it is like hiking: choosing either left or right at the first fork in the path (and the fork after that, and the one after that, etc.) will determine where you will have lunch ultimately.”
“Dienes used the example of one particular published study that implicitly harboured 120 plausible combinations of decisions … A plot of the 120 possible difference scores for one particular variable (i.e., a multiverse) showed that their confidence intervals could contain exclusively positive as well as exclusively negative values, and mostly hovered around zero (i.e., no difference). Thus, despite what seemed a convincing effect in the paper, considering the full array of outcomes for that one variable should lead to the conclusion that really nothing can be said about it.”
“I was stunned. So many possibilities, and precisely one of those rare statistically significant occurrences had made it into the literature! Perhaps by coincidence, perhaps because certain routes fit better with the authors’ hypothesis than other routes? But regardless of why this particular result ended up in the paper, how can readers even know about those other 119?”
“So, now I am working on changing my research practices.”