Monday, May 13, 2019

Causus Belli

I know I have been hard on work from Qian Zhang's lab in Southwest University for a while now. I have my reasons. I am mainly concerned with a large number of papers in which there are many serious errors. I can live with the one-off bad article. That happens. What I am reading suggests either considerable incompetence over multiple studies or something far more serious. There is a pervasive pattern of errors that is consistent across multiple articles. That I or any of my colleagues were stonewalled when asking for data is not acceptable given the pattern of results over the course of the last several years. My recent experiences have turned me from a "trust in peer review" to "trust but verify." If verification fails, trust goes bye-bye. Just how it is.

Given the sheer quantity of articles and given the increasing level of impact each new article has, I have good cause to be concerned. I am even more concerned given that well-known American and European authors are now collaborators in this research. They have reputations on the line, and the last thing I want for them is to find themselves dealing with corrections and retractions. Beyond that, I can never figure out how to say no to a meta-analysis. The findings in this body of research are ones that I would ordinarily need to include. As of now, I am questioning if I could even remotely hope to extract accurate effect sizes from this particular set of articles. I should never find myself in that position, and I think that anyone in such a position is right to be upset.

Under ordinary circumstances, I am not a confrontational person. If anything, I am quite the opposite. However, when I see something that is just plain wrong, I cannot remain silent. There is a moral and ethical imperative for speaking out. Right now I see a series of articles that have grave errors, and ones in which would lead a reasonable skeptic to state that the main effect the authors sought (weapons priming, video game priming, violent media priming) never existed. There may or may not be some subset effect going on, but without the ability to reproduce the original findings, there is no way to know entirely for sure. Not being able to trust what I read is extremely uncomfortable. I can live with uncertainty - after all a certain level of uncertainty is built into our research designs and our data analysis techniques. What I cannot live with is no certainty at all. To take an old John Lennon song (that I probably knew more from an old Generation X cover), "gimme some truth." Is that too much to ask? If so, I continue to be confrontational.

No comments:

Post a Comment