Pre-Registration of Research

It’s a while since I did any actual “research” in the scientific sense, essentially all my work is with people and their outputs, written or otherwise, and at more abstract levels of principles involved in their observable actions. Last time I actually collected data and analysed it using objective and statistical scientific methods was probably my Master’s project and dissertation, and a few routine organisation / business / market research surveys since.

I’ve been following a movement that says proper scientific research should always be publicly & auditably pre-registered before actually being done, as a guard against researchers only publishing research that meet or directly, impinge upon their prior stated aims. (Example here from Dorothy Bishop @DeeVeeBee) Properly pre-registered, we get to see inconclusive and negative results – or absence of published results – that may often be more valuable to wider humanity than the original directed aims of the funded research. Not just negative findings notice, but even absent or inconclusive ones too – may tell us as much about the flawed philosophy implicit in the research question or the way the research was planned, as much as the explicit “content” of the research.

I just noticed it’s a practice I regularly follow here in my “pre-reviews”.

As I say almost all my work is reviewing and creatively synthesising the work of others and a habit I developed early on was to state pretty explicitly what I thought of the work (and its relevance to mine) before I actually read / viewed / listened to it. Often listing my presumptions / pre-impressions based on prior publicity or on skimming blurbs, intros and end-materials first. Quite independently of specific reviews and analyses, I also often do “position statements” about what I believe up to this point on a given topic. That way people – including myself – can check my honesty when reading and reviews and conclusions I do ultimately draw.

Keep me honest.


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