The recent Levelt report from the Netherlands details the breadth of Deiderik Stapel’s fraudulent activities and offers reflections on the scientific culture that enabled this magnitude of deception to go (nearly) undiscovered for many years. It is a sobering read. Both the European Association of Social Psychology and the Society of Experimental Social Psychology have issued statements on the report.
These statements expressed appreciation to the Levelt committee for its thorough investigation of the Stapel case and indicated reservations about the report’s indictment of the field
large for what the Levelt report considered "sloppy science” practices. In large measure, we support these previous statements, and our statement is meant to complement rather than reiterate
the points made by our allied societies.
In the aftermath of the Stapel case and other recently discovered cases of fraud, it would behoove us to reflect on the steps we can take as we move forward to protect our science against incidents of fraud in the future and to repair the image of our science.
The core foundation of any field of
scientific endeavor is trust and integrity.
The Society for Personality and Social Psychology has consistently maintained the stance that we must work together as a professional organization and as individual scientists to promote a context in which good scientific practices are celebrated and are embedded into the training we provide to
scientists joining the field. Indeed, this was the theme of a recent letter I wrote to the Society
regarding the Stapel case. It is a theme that merits repeating. These recent events provide an
opportunity not only for constructive reflection but also specific action. Upholding sound scientific practices will insure that our science has integrity.
We should not assume, however, that because we
all believe in the principles of ethical conduct that this is sufficient. In this regard, we can all
profitably discuss ways to accomplish these goals. These goals should include, but not be limited to:
Identifying effective ways to build discussion of ethics and good scientific practices into our course work and everyday discussions in our laboratories;
Developing safe venues for trainees and others to report concerns about breaches of ethics within universities and within the journal review process;
Establishing clear standards for what personality and social psychology papers should present in methods and results sections of articles;
Providing formal training in how to review articles;
Clarifying within our formal training acceptable practices for addressing, for example, missing data, eliminating cases from analysis,
providing clear detail on methods and measures;
Increasing opportunities and incentives for conducting and reporting
direct replications of important findings; and
Evaluating the pressures that can lead to a careerist focus as opposed to a focus on true discovery among scientists.
These are but a few of the issues we, and all sciences, need to consider.
Recent months have borne witness to a number of activities designed to address these issues.
For example: replication issues have been the subject of a recent special issue of Perspectives on Psychological Science
(http://pps.sagepub.com/content/7/6.toc), a forthcoming special target article in the European Journal of Personality,
and recent issues of our own Dialogue (see
http://tinyurl.com/auzkr73). Brian Nosek and Daniel Lakens are co‐editing a special issue on replication of important findings in social psychological research in Social Psychology (see http://tinyurl.com/asujp7s). Finally, SPSP commissioned a Task Force for Responsible Conduct, which outlined a variety of ways we could take positive steps to ensure the integrity of our science (https://www.spsp.org/?ResponsibleConduct) and the Task Force continues to work on these issues.
Our upcoming meeting in New Orleans provides a number of immediate opportunities to explore and discuss these issues with our community.
Two formal symposia address issues related to good scientific practices. The first is titled "Openness in Scientific Reporting: Potential and Reaction” and is scheduled for Friday, January 18 from 11:15 am to 12:30 pm (Rooms R03-‐R05). The second symposium is titled "False Positive Findings: Effect Sizes Too Large, Too Small, or Just Right” and is scheduled for Friday, January 18 from 3:30 pm to 4:45 pm (Rooms R03-‐R05). Finally, I suggested to you in a recent letter that the leadership of SPSP was likely to hold a special session for the membership to come together to discuss these issues or any issues of interest to the membership. We have scheduled this session for Saturday, January 19 from 3:30 pm to 4:45 pm Room 203-‐205. In attendance will be David Funder who is the 2013 President of the Society, Jenny Crocker who chaired the SPSP Task Force on Responsible Conduct, Jack Dovidio the current Executive Officer for the Society, Jamie Pennebaker
the new President-‐Elect of the Society, and me. We invite you to come to this session with questions and we will do our best to address these and other issues relevant to the Society and engage the membership in a productive discussion.
Patricia G. Devine for the SPSP Executive Committee
Society for Personality and Social Psychology