Wednesday, November 28, 2018


No matter our background, no matter our vocation, there has to be something that gets us up in the morning. For me, lately, that is anger.

At what? Let's just say that the crisis which goes by many names (replication crisis, replicability crisis, methodological crisis) felt like a punch to the gut - and one I just did not see coming. As I digested what had happened and what was happening, I had to change my perspective about a field that defines a significant part of my identity. Initially I was a bit sanguine. Then as reality sank in, I got pissed off. After all, to maintain any semblance of integrity, I had to alert students in many of my classes that there were whole sections of textbooks that they were probably best ignoring, or viewing only as cautionary tales. That meant accepting that students would ask me, what was real, and for me to not necessarily feel like I had a satisfactory answer. A substantial chunk of work in my corner of our aching science seems to needlessly scare the hell out of people, and that work is not aging well. In fact the moral panics over video games and violence or screen time and any of a number of purported negative psychological health outcomes remind me of the moral panics that I grew up with: Dungeons and Dragons was supposed to damage teens psychologically, as were the lyrics of songs from many of my favorite bands of the time (remember that I enjoyed and still enjoy punk and punk-derived music from the late 1970s-mid 1980s). At the time I would see people make causal claims from correlational data (or merely out of thin air) and I would just think, "bullshit." One could say that I did become an educator, and maybe that questionable life choice is an outcome of questionable life choices I made in my youth, including my pop culture interests and activities of the day. I am pissed at a system of dissemination of our work that relies on the funds (at least indirectly) of our citizens but which once published becomes the property of some conglomerate that then sells the content back to the citizens at an insane profit, and sometimes with peer review and editorial standards that differ little from what most of us rightfully deride as predatory journals.

Thankfully, from punk I got both the attitude and the politics. The attitude is the easy part. The politics actually took a good deal of thought. And so here I am again. It would be easy to adopt a pose of casual contempt or indifference and merely sneer as I preview a textbook or read the latest journal article. That's not me. I actually care. So maybe a little anarchy (not in the sense of chaos!) will do us some good about now. Things get shaken up a bit and if that leads to the sort of changes we need (more open communication and archiving our work, more equality and equity in the profession as opposed to rigid hierarchies) I'm in. Reading much of what is coming out of the open science proponents is the equivalent of putting on an old familiar Black Flag or Dead Kennedys LP. Hell, sometimes I do both, especially if I am at the office on a weekend and can crank up the volume. The punks at their best were angry and thoughtful. They wanted to knock down stuff, but they also were also wanting to replace whatever was knocked down with something better (which was of course ever an open-ended question as to what that would entail). Whatever form that something better takes, I hope for a science that truly gives itself away in the public interest, rather than get coopted into some neoliberal facsimile of open science that merely repeats the same mistakes of the past. Doing what I can, as an educator and scholar who has little privilege or leverage to offer other than adding to the voices in the proverbial wilderness is enough for now. That gets me up in the morning, like clockwork.

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