Scientific Utopia: II - Restructuring Incentives and Practices to Promote Truth Over Publishability

Perspectives on Psychological Science, Forthcoming

41 Pages Posted: 19 May 2012 Last revised: 26 May 2012

Brian A. Nosek

University of Virginia

Jeffrey Spies

University of Virginia

Matt Motyl

University of Illinois at Chicago; University of Illinois at Chicago

Date Written: May 25, 2012

Abstract

An academic scientist’s professional success depends on publishing. Publishing norms emphasize novel, positive results. As such, disciplinary incentives encourage design, analysis, and reporting decisions that elicit positive results and ignore negative results. Prior reports demonstrate how these incentives inflate the rate of false effects in published science. When incentives favor novelty over replication, false results persist in the literature unchallenged, reducing efficiency in knowledge accumulation. Previous suggestions to address this problem are unlikely to be effective. For example, a journal of negative results publishes otherwise unpublishable reports. This enshrines the low status of the journal and its content. The persistence of false findings can be meliorated with strategies that make the fundamental but abstract accuracy motive – getting it right – competitive with the more tangible and concrete incentive – getting it published. We develop strategies for improving scientific practices and knowledge accumulation that account for ordinary human motivations and self-serving biases.

Keywords: scientific publishing, null results, replication, reproducibility, norms, incentives, motivation, bias

Suggested Citation

Nosek, Brian A. and Spies, Jeffrey and Motyl, Matt, Scientific Utopia: II - Restructuring Incentives and Practices to Promote Truth Over Publishability (May 25, 2012). Perspectives on Psychological Science, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2062465

Brian A. Nosek (Contact Author)

University of Virginia ( email )

1400 University Ave
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

Jeffrey Spies

University of Virginia ( email )

1400 University Ave
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

Matt Motyl

University of Illinois at Chicago ( email )

1007 W. Harrison St. (m/c 285)
Psychology Department
Chicago, IL 60607
United States

HOME PAGE: http://motyl.people.uic.edu

University of Illinois at Chicago ( email )

1102 Behavioral Science Building (BSB)
Chicago, IL 60607-7137
United States

HOME PAGE: http://motyl.people.uic.edu

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