IN THE NEWS: Undark (November 20, 2019)

[Excerpts taken from the article “A Team Approach to Tackling the Psychology Replication Crisis” by Dalmeet Singh Chawla, published in Undark]
“In 2008, psychologists proposed that when humans are shown an unfamiliar face, they judge it on two main dimensions: trustworthiness and physical strength…To date, the 2008 paper — written by Nikolaas Oosterhof of Dartmouth College and Alexander Todorov of Princeton University — has attracted more than a thousand citations…”
“Now, one large-scale study suggests that although the 2008 theory may apply in many parts of the world, the overall picture remains complex…The study is the first conducted through the Psychological Science Accelerator, a global network of more than 500 labs in more than 70 countries.”
“The accelerator, which launched in 2017, aims to re-do older psychology experiments, but on a mass-scale in several different settings. The effort is one of many targeting a problem that has plagued the discipline for years: the inability of psychologists to get consistent results across similar experiments, or the lack of reproducibility.”
“The accelerator’s founder, Christopher Chartier, a psychologist at Ashland University in Ohio, modeled the project in part on physics experiments, which often have large international teams to help answer the big questions.”
“Despite being branded as an accelerator, the project has needed two years to produce its first study, partly because it takes longer to coordinate within large teams and collate data from multiple locations.”
“Even at this modest pace, each accelerator project should produce knowledge “likely to be greater than that produced by 100 typical solo or small-team projects,” says Simine Vazire, a psychologist at the University of California, Davis, who is not involved with the accelerator. ‘Even though it looks slow, it is actually likely to produce discoveries and knowledge at a faster rate than the heaps of little studies we are used to pumping out.'”
“One goal for the accelerator, Chartier adds, is to operate as a model for academia more widely.”
“After an initial call for submissions…The study selection committee, a group of five researchers, then assesses whether the accelerator has the bandwidth to carry out the study.”
“For studies that pass this stage, Chartier tracks down around 10 experts — within and outside the accelerator — to review each submission.”
“Following the review, all accelerator members rate each project via an online survey. The selection committee decides which projects are accepted based on all the feedback and ratings.”
“Once it’s decided which study the accelerator network labs are going to work on, the authors often publish a registered report outlining their approach, after quality control checks from experts, but before data collection stage — a process known as pre-registration, which has become popular in psychology in recent years.”
“The Psychological Science Accelerator isn’t the only project seeking to address the reproducibility problem. Other recently conducted efforts with similar goals include the Reproducibility Project: Psychology, Social Sciences Replication Project, Many Labs, and Many Labs 2, among others.”
“But the accelerator is unique in two ways, Chartier says. First, collaborators plan to continue to work on large-scale efforts indefinitely. And second, the accelerator isn’t necessarily limited to replication studies, opening it to novel and exploratory work.”
“So far, the accelerator hasn’t attracted much funding and remains largely a labor of love or part of the daily job of those involved. For now, the accelerator plans to turn around roughly three studies every year, Chartier says, but could potentially aim for more with some financial support.”
To read the article, click here.

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