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Metaresearch in action

A look at the realities of metaresearch and science correction through Data Colada and Francesca Gino.

Yesterday we released an episode ( with a special guest from UniMelb’s psychology department, Professor Simine Vazire. She discussed with us the metascience work she does and how it contributes to the self-correcting processes of psychology. In addition to her research work, she discussed what she referred to “activism” and service work in her field.

This episode tied in nicely with the final episode of season 2, featuring the head of HPS at UniMelb, Professor Fiona Fidler. Together, Fiona and Simine co-direct a unique interdisciplinary research group at the University of Melbourne called the MetaMelb Research Initiative. Take a look at a previous blog written about the MetaMelb initiative here at UniMelb. MetaMelb have “lab” space spread across both Psychology and HPS, but the group itself includes researchers from many other disciplinary backgrounds as well, including ecology.

In episode 12, Fiona introduced us to the concept of “collective objectivity”, which focuses on objectivity as a social, collective process, rather than one that individual scientists maintain on their own. Independent replications, peer review, and error detection work are all examples of processes that help maintain collective objectivity. This puts an imperative on ensuring diversity in our scientific community, so that whatever biases individuals might have, including those that can hide in the status quo, can be identified and mitigated in the negotiation of collective objectivity. Similarly, in Simine’s episode, she talked about “social epistemiology” and gave examples of Metascientific work that investigate those social processes in science.

Fiona’s episode also introduced Metascience as an interdisciplinary field focused on interventions to improve science, and careful evaluation of those interventions. She rejected definitions of Metascience like ‘the science of science’ because these write philosophers, historians, and sociologists of science and their methods out of the mission. Both Fiona and Simine stress the importance of Metascience keeping close ties with those established disciplines.

Recently, the Metascience community have been shocked by the events involving Data Colada and Francesca Gino. Data Colada found discrepancies in work produced by Harvard Business School researcher Francesca Gino, and after a long period of careful error detection research, concluded that the data had several inconsistencies and additions that resulted in the effects appearing stronger than they would otherwise have been. They presented this research to Harvard, who placed Gino on administrative leave. Two weeks ago, Gino responded by suing Harvard and Data Colada for 25 million dollars. Simine Vazire and a large group of other metaresearchers (including Yoel Inberg, Brian Nosek and many others) set up a GoFundMe to assist Data Colada with their legal fees. Within 48 hours donations hit the target goal of USD$250,000, and at the time of writing this blog post, are still flooding in. Error detection work has often been ridiculed and undervalued. But in the last few days, we have seen a change. This fundraising campaign has shown just how strong the commitment to error detection work is, and how much this community is prepared to invest in maintaining processes for the legitimate criticism and evaluation of published research. You can donate here.



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