Friday, June 26, 2020

Guest blogger: K. Ames on replication and conclusions

Ames comments on my blog sometimes and often writes something of special value and insight.  Here is his comment on the blog of 6/24/20 about research results that don't replicate,

Years ago, my UW-Madison mentor, Michael Hakeem, had the audacity to criticize the Zimbardo experiment in his Criminology class. This was tantamount to heresy and he paddled alone against the opinions of the day and was excoriated for daring to suggest the results and conclusions were flawed. He brought up well-reasoned arguments and insights. It was decades before the world seemed to catch up to him and now we have, at best, divided opinion as to the design, action, and conclusion of the experiment (see Ben Blum - I can state without equivocation, undergrads in the Sociology Department were eager to swallow Zimbardo's conclusions whole. It fit what we already wanted to believe. Finally, proof!

I have a friend who was a prof at THE Ohio State University in public health. He resigned, discouraged, because of the funding sources (many by corporations or interests who wanted a pre-existing conclusion or opinion merely verified), and the inability to find funding for replication studies. There is no money in repeating another's work, he found. He would muse that there is a significant chance the cigarette companies of the 1950s could today find the "scientific" backing they'd need to demonstrate the positive health effects of smoking. Money leads to predictable results, he claimed, and he wanted no part of that machine.

We trust in "science," but we need to be better consumers of that science - and that is hard, hard work. I don't think we're up to it.

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