Sunday, June 6, 2021

Is there a brain drain in the science reform movement?

The answer, according to Alexander Danvers, appears to be yes, there is indeed a brain drain. There are plenty of reasons why we appear to be losing our best and brightest, at a time when we arguably need them the most. There doesn't appear to be much of an incentive for reformers to do their work, including post-peer review necessary to weed out grossly incompetent and fraudulent research. Nor is there much of an incentive to develop or engage in the sort of necessary work of conducting replication research, developing and validating our measures in a way that would inspire confidence, etc. Certainly the grant money isn't there for such work. And gaining a reputation for engaging in reform-minded research activities is a terrible way to get promoted, given the way the power structure in the academic world currently works. There simply are not enough mid and late career scholars willing to defend this necessary work, and those who carry out that work. There's also the question of whether what we do in my field has much meaning. That's certainly a question that haunted Joe Hilgard as he contemplated his eventual exit from academic life. Indeed, one might make more of a difference as a data scientist in any of a number of industries. And although I am quite happy for my peers who have found more lucrative and rewarding careers outside of the academic world, I can't help but wonder how that bodes for the future of reform. How much of what some very driven and competent reformers within psychology will become normative? How much will get set aside as the publish-or-perish model of scholarly life continues to dominate, and those who have profited from the old status quo continue to call the proverbial shots? Could independent research centers like IGDORE Institute be a way of sidestepping at least some of the current power structure? In the meantime, on a more personal note, I am having to accept that at least some subset of the people I met at SIPS in 2019 and again virtually in 2020 are ones who will not be around once I can finance another international conference trip in a couple years. I'll miss them. Hopefully some newer members at SIPS will be ready to carry the torch further. We shall see. Whatever happens, we need to make sure that there are incentives in place to keep our best minds with us. Otherwise, my field is one that will deserve to slip into irrelevance.

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