Are most findings in psychology false? An activist’s perspective
Dr James C Coyne
Thursday, 11 June 2015, 12pm to 1pm
Lecture Theatre C, Experimental Psychology
Hosted by Professor Dorothy Bishop
Documented examples of outright fraud increase skepticism about the trustworthiness of what is found in the psychological literature. While outright fraud could be rare, confirmatory bias and flexible rules of design and analysis are rampant and even encouraged by journals seeking newsworthy articles. Efforts at reform meet with considerable resistance and defense of the status quo. This talk will describe the work of one loosely affiliated group to advance reform by focusing attention not only on the quality of the existing literature, but on the social and political processes at the level of editing and reviewing. It will give specific examples of ongoing efforts to dilute the absolute authority of editors and prepublication reviewers, and enforce transparency and greater reliance on post-publication peer review of claims and reanalysis of shared data. Other, formal replication initiatives are occurring in psychology to increase the trustworthiness of the literature. However, though well intended, they may actually serve to deter more basic changes in the institutional support and individual incentives favoring false and exaggerated claims. An alternative policy of direct confrontation with editors and journals and repeat-offender authors and outing of undisclosed conflicts of interest may be needed if change is to be achieved.
James C. Coyne is the 2015 Carnegie Centenary Visiting Professor at University of Stirling. He also is Professor of Health Psychology at University of Groningen, the Netherlands. He is Professor Emeritus of Psychology in Psychiatry at University of Pennsylvania where he was Director of Behavioral Oncology at the Abramson Family Cancer Center and Senior Fellow, Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics. He is the author of over 350 articles and chapters and has been identified by ISI Web of Science as one of the most cited psychologists and psychiatrists in the world. Dr. Coyne is also a blogger at Science-Based Medicine (http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/the-mind-in-cancer/) and PLOS Mind the Brain (http://blogs.plos.org/mindthebrain/author/jcyone/) where he takes editors of high impact journals to task for poor editorial decisions, confirmatory bias and other actions that put bad evidence into the literature.