A Proposal For Modernizing Psychology Journals: Publish the Data

In some ways it is nice that psychology research is fed to us in the discrete package that is the journal article: Each package can be edited into some version of readability and peer-reviewed for credibility.

That the process stops there, however, is an anachronism. It used to be that publishing the actual data interpreted in the article would have taken up too much space in paper journals, but on the internet it would be easy to do, and far more useful than just the analysis.

Imagine being able to go back in and re-run the statistics for an experiment, or try out other analyses–especially while analyses that throw away information like that old standby, the median-split ANOVA, are still accepted by journals. Imagine how much more powerful meta-analyses could be if it was standard practice to publish the data. Every research project would be a potential collaboration.

In fact, like scanning the Library of Congress, we could retrospectively publish all the data from every published article in the archives! What a resource that would be.

It might not work so well for qualitative research, the data of which are interviews with individuals whose confidentiality has to be protected. For quantitative research, though, it would be easy to protect anonymity. I see no downside except, I suppose, for researchers who are fudging their numbers.

[First published on Nathen’s Miraculous Escape, February 21, 2011.]