IN THE NEWS: Slate (June 20, 2019)

[From the article “We Tried to Publish a Replication of a Science Paper in Science. The Journal Refused.” by Kevin Arceneaux, Bert Bakker, Claire Gothreau, and Gijs Schumacher, published in Slate]
 “Our story starts in 2008, when a group of researchers published an article (here it is without a paywall) that found political conservatives have stronger physiological reactions to threatening images than liberals do. The article was published in Science, which is one of the most prestigious general science journals around. It’s the kind of journal that can make a career in academia.”
“The researchers behind the Science article had shown a series of images to 46 participants in Nebraska and used equipment to record how much the participants’ palms sweated in response. The images included scary stuff, like a spider on a person’s face.”
“We conducted two “conceptual” replications (one in the Netherlands and one in the U.S.) that used different images to get at the same idea of a “threat”—for example, a gun pointing at the screen. … But both teams independently failed to find that people’s physiological reactions to these images correlated with their political attitudes.”
“Our first thought was that we were doing something wrong. So, we asked the original researchers for their images, which they generously provided to us, and we added a few more. We took the step of “pre-registering” a more direct replication of the Science study, meaning that we detailed exactly what we were going to do before we did it and made that public.”
“The direct replication took place in Philadelphia, where we recruited 202 participants (more than four times than the original sample size of 46 used in the Science study). Again, we found no correlation between physiological reactions to threatening images (the original ones or the ones we added) and political conservatism—no matter how we looked at the data.”
“We drafted a paper that reported the failed replication studies along with a more nuanced discussion about the ways in which physiology might matter for politics and sent it to Science. We did not expect Science to immediately publish the paper, but because our findings cast doubt on an influential study published in its pages, we thought the editorial team would at least send it out for peer review.”
“It did not. About a week later, we received a summary rejection with the explanation that the Science advisory board of academics and editorial team felt that since the publication of this article the field has moved on and that, while they concluded that we had offered a conclusive replication of the original study, it would be better suited for a less visible subfield journal.”
“We believe that it is bad policy for journals like Science to publish big, bold ideas and then leave it to subfield journals to publish replications showing that those ideas aren’t so accurate after all. Subfield journals are less visible, meaning the message often fails to reach the broader public. They are also less authoritative, meaning the failed replication will have less of an impact on the field if it is not published by Science.”
“Open and transparent science can only happen when journals are willing to publish results that contradict previous findings.”
To read more, click here.

One Comment on “IN THE NEWS: Slate (June 20, 2019)

  1. Same experience here.
    I have sent 2 papers to Journal of Finance (top journal in finance), replicating its past papers and providing different empirical evidence. Two different editors have shown no interest at all, with desk rejections and with somewhat derogatory comments.
    I think they do not want to admit that they can make mistakes.


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