Looking Back on Metascience 2019

[Excerpts taken from the article, “Metascience: The Science of Doing Science” by Jonathan Schooler, published in Observer magazine, a publication of the Association of Psychological Science. The article appeared in November 2019. TRN apologizes for the belated posting.]
“In September, a symposium on metascience (metascience2019.org), funded by the Fetzer Franklin Fund and held at Stanford University, brought together nearly 500 attendees to help consolidate the field. The symposium included over 50 speakers from a remarkable variety of scientific disciplines, including psychology, philosophy, biology, sociology, network science, economics informatics, quantitative methodology, history, statistics, political science, medicine, business, and chemical and biological engineering.”
“I organized the event with APS Fellows Brian Nosek (University of Virginia) and Jon Krosnick at Stanford, psychological scientist Leif D. Nelson of University of California, Berkeley, and Fetzer Franklin Fund director Jan Walleczek.”
“The meeting addressed pressing questions surrounding the issue of scientific reproducibility including: “What is replication and its impact and value?” and “How are statistics, methods, and measurement practices affecting our capacity to identify robust findings?” However, it broadened the discussion to address a host of other aspects of the scientific process, such as “How do scientists generate ideas?” ‘How do scientists interpret and treat evidence?” and “What are the cultures and norms of science?’”
“The Stanford metascience meeting demonstrated the fundamentally interdisciplinary nature of the field…the meeting illustrated how scientists across domains, united by shared interests, can converse about the common elements underpinning the scientific process.”
“One criticism of the metascience meeting involved its subtitle: “the emerging field of research on the scientific process.” Some viewed this characterization as overlooking the many lines of work on this general topic that have been carried out for decades…”
“Whereas specialized scientists such as Ioannidis have been discussing problems with scientific reproducibility for some time, the mainstream research community has only recently thas taken note of this challenge only recently.”
“Furthermore, while independent lines of work have been carried out across disciplines, the consolidation of these areas into an overarching field has been limited. Thus, although it might be misleading to characterize the field of metascience as “emerging,” it certainly is consolidating and gaining momentum as never before.”
“The increasing role of metascience in science holds both great promise and some risk…On the one hand, exposure to a mirror is known to enhance conscientiousness, and indeed it seems likely that the emergence of metascientific concerns may be encouraging scientists to be more disciplined in the way they conduct their research.”
“However, mirrors can also make people self-conscious, and it seems plausible that scrutiny of the scientific process could (at least sometimes) stifle scientific creativity and risk-taking…when metascience is used as a platform for making attacks on the credibility of researchers whose work has failed to be replicated, both science in general and metascience in particular are bound to suffer indignities.”
“For better or worse, the metascience genie is out of the bottle. The zeitgeist is shifting. As metascience takes on an increasingly central role in science, it remains to be seen what discoveries it will make and what impact it will have.”
To read the article, click here.

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