I just came across an interesting take on the ongoing ethics debate/inquisition in psychology. Nothing new there, except that this one comes from a voice rarely heard in the discussion: the lowly grad student.
As someone who’s just finishing grad school, I found it refreshing to hear another person voice my own thoughts and concerns. Here’s an excerpt from his original blog post:
“I’ve realized that this amazing movement in the field of psychology has left me feeling somewhat helpless…The pressure is real for the ones at the bottom. I think more attention needs to be paid to this aspect of the psychology movement. I can’t be the only one who feels like I know what I should (and shouldn’t) be doing but don’t have a choice.”
This is a point that is so obvious and so important, yet one that is rarely made. I agree with the author that it’s wonderful that psychology is waking up to its responsibilities and taking a stand on supposedly minor ethical infringements in analyzing and reporting data. However, it’s almost never acknowledged that early-career researchers are frequently put in an almost impossible position. Data is rarely perfect (in the sense that it matches up perfectly with expectations), yet we’re seemingly expected to produce perfect data in order to get published, land jobs, and eventually get promoted. Changes in institutional mindsets, those of journal editorial teams, hiring committees and the like, need to happen if proper research practices are to be encouraged.
It doesn’t help that a lot of the grandstanding about ethics and QRPs comes from established, tenured academics whose futures have long since been assured. Yes, we totally agree that these are critical issues that psychology as a whole must address, but an occasional acknowledgment of our difficult position would be nice.
I’m currently writing up some “imperfect” data for publication, complete with one null and one significant effect, as well as an unexpected moderating effect of gender. Here’s hoping that my commitment to my planned analyses and a priori hypotheses will be rewarded. The results might not be perfect, but that doesn’t make them any less important.
Here’s a link to the original piece: