New Special Section on Best Practices in Perspectives on Psychological Science
By Alison Ledgerwood
As we navigate the day-to-day hubbub of controversial blog posts and loud Facebook debates, the uncertainty of shifting journal policies, and the frustration of conflicting reviewer standards, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture—where we have been and where we are going. But that big picture is important. Our field’s evolving conversation about methods and practices has placed us at the forefront of a broader movement to improve standards and practices across scientific disciplines. And across those disciplines, as well as within our own, we have a central, shared goal as scientists: to learn from our research by accumulating knowledge that converges on truth.
Debates, I think, are important and useful, especially when different sides listen to other perspectives with an open mind and especially when everyone feels invited to the table. But debates about abstract ideas and values aren’t enough to move our field forward in terms of improving our research methods, or in terms of setting policies that are nuanced and flexible enough to promote better practices without accidentally engendering blind adherence to new arbitrary rules or unintentionally excluding certain areas of research. And conversations about the future of the field that unintentionally exclude whole sections of that field—whether by research area, gender, ethnicity, or type of institution—seem deeply problematic as well.
Given this context, one of the most pressing questions that I think we need to ask ourselves, if we’re serious about our shared goal, is what concrete steps we can take, right now, to maximize the information we get from the research that we all devote so much time and effort to conducting. To that end, the May 2014 special section in Perspectives on Psychological Science offered a toolbox of practical best practices that researchers can use to increase the informational value of their research and evaluate what they can learn from the research of others. The recently-published November special section picks up where the last one left off. From a more accurate way to calculate power to new ideas for conducting better meta-analyses, the articles in the current issue provide an array of cutting-edge strategies designed to help researchers boost the informational value of individual studies and then synthesize findings across studies so that we learn as much as we can from the work that we do.
Alison Ledgerwood is an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Davis. Her research centers on the psychological tools that enable humans to move beyond their immediate experience. Her methodological interests focus on promoting methods and practices that can increase the informational value of psychological research.