The Main Reason to Pre-Register Your Research Is…

[Excerpts taken from the article, “The Value of Preregistration for Psychological Science: A Conceptual Analysis”, by Daniël Lakens, posted at PsyArXiv Preprints]
“With the rise of the internet it has become feasible to create online registries that ask researchers to specify their research design, data collection, and the planned analyses…it is useful to evaluate whether and when it is worth preregistering your study.”
“It is…important to justify the value of preregistration based on a philosophy of science. Discussing preregistration without discussing philosophy of science is a waste of time.”
“Preregistration has the goal to allow others to transparently evaluate the capacity of a test to falsify a prediction.”
“Researchers can have many goals that are unrelated to tests of predictions, and in those cases, preregistration might have positive externalities, but it does not serve a goal that can’t be achieved through other means.”
“Mayo (1996) carefully develops arguments for the role that prediction plays in science and arrives at an error statistical philosophy based on a severity requirement: We build a body of knowledge based on claims that have passed a severe test.”
“A test is severe when it is highly capable of demonstrating a claim is false. If a researcher randomly assigns participants to a control and experimental condition, uses a response scale from 1 to 7 to measure how people feel, and claims the difference between the groups will be at most 6 scale points, there is no way for this claim to be proven false. The observed difference must be between zero and six.”
“Figure 1A visualizes a null hypothesis test, where only one specific state of the world (namely an effect of exactly zero) will falsify our prediction.”
“Figure 1B represents a one-sided null-hypothesis test, where differences larger than zero are predicted, and the prediction is falsified when the difference is either equal to zero, or smaller than zero.”
“Figure 1C visualized a range prediction where only differences between 0.5 and 2.5 support the prediction. Since there are many more ways this prediction could be wrong, it is an even more severe test.”
“If we observe a difference of 1.5, with a 95% confidence interval from 1 to 2, all three predictions are confirmed with an alpha level of 0.05, but the prediction in Figure 1C has passed the most severe test since it was confirmed in a test that had a higher capacity of demonstrating the prediction is false.”
“Note that the three tests differ in severity even when they are tested with the same Type 1 error rate.”
“…a preregistration document should give us all the information that allows future readers to evaluate the severity of the test. Researchers should also specify when they will conclude their prediction is not supported.”
“Preregistration adds value for people who, based on their philosophy of science, increase their trust in claims that are supported by severe tests and predictive successes.”
“But researchers often have other goals such as developing measures, descriptive investigations, exploratory studies, and theoretical studies such as mathematical models or simulation studies (de Groot, 1969). In these cases, other philosophies of science might provide a better description of the goal scientists have.”
“…I personally feel that the discussion about preregistration in the psychological literature has often been unproductive, exactly because positive externalities were not separated from the goal of preregistering a study.”
“Preregistration requires researchers to carefully think through their analyses before collecting the data. This can lead to useful improvements when designing a study, but this goal can also be achieved by careful thought.”
“Working through a checklist for a preregistration might remind researchers to think about issues they would otherwise have forgotten, but the study is improved regardless of whether their answers on this checklist is made public.”
“Preregistration is a tool, and researchers who use it should do so because they have a goal that preregistration facilitates. If the use of a tool is detached from a philosophy of science it risks becoming a heuristic.”
“Researchers should not choose to preregister because it has become a new norm, but they should preregister because they can justify based on their philosophy of science how preregistration supports their goals.”
To read the article, click here.

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