tracking replication attempts in psychology–for real this time
I’ve written a few posts on this blog about how the development of better online infrastructure could help address and even solve many of the problems psychologists and other scientists face (e.g., the low reliability of peer review, the ‘fudge factor’ in statistical reporting, the sheer size of the scientific literature, etc.). Actually, that general question–how we can use technology to do better science–occupies a good chunk of my research these days (see e.g., Neurosynth). One question I’ve been interested in for a long time is how to keep track not only of ‘successful’ studies (i.e., those that produce sufficiently interesting effects to make it into the published literature), but also replication failures (or successes of limited interest) that wind up in researchers’ file drawers. A couple of years ago I went so far as to build a prototype website for tracking replication attempts in psychology. Unfortunately, it never went anywhere, partly (okay, mostly) because the site really sucked, and partly because I didn’t really invest much effort in drumming up interest (mostly due to lack of time). But I still think the idea is a valuable one in principle, and a lot of other people have independently had the same idea (which means it must be right, right?).
Anyway, it looks like someone finally had the cleverness, time, and money to get this right. Hal Pashler, Sean Kang*, and colleagues at UCSD have been developing an online database for tracking attempted replications of psychology studies for a while now, and it looks like it’s now in beta. PsychFileDrawer is a very slick, full-featured platform that really should–if there’s any justice in the world–provide the kind of service everyone’s been saying we need for a long time now. If it doesn’t work, I think we’ll have some collective soul-searching to do, because I don’t think it’s going to get any easier than this to add and track attempted replications. So go use it!
*Full disclosure: Sean Kang is a good friend of mine, so I’m not completely impartial in plugging this (though I’d do it anyway). Sean also happens to be amazingly smart and in search of a faculty job right now. If I were you, I’d hire him.