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Not What They Are Looking For

Only a tiny portion of psychology journals encourages researchers to submit replication work, a pair of researchers reports.

There have been concerns in a number of scientific fields that many published studies might not be reproducible. In Science last year, the Open Science Collaboration indicated that while researchers could repeat nearly all the psychology studies they set out to, they could only replicate the results in less than half of those studies. Another group, though, argued that that effort suffered from statistical errors. Meanwhile, the Reproducibility Project: Cancer Biology, which also involves the Open Science Collaboration, has had mixed results and was not always able to do precisely what was done in the original studies, making them difficult to compare.

In this new study, Regent's University London's Neil Martin and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine's Richard Clarke looked into how welcome such replication efforts are. They examined the instructions given to authors as well as the published objectives of 1,151 psychology journals to determine whether replication studies were allowed and accepted.

As they report in Frontiers in Psychology, only 3 percent of journals said that they accepted replications. About a third of journals stressed the importance of submissions' originality, while most of the remainder neither encouraged nor discouraged replications. One percent discouraged replications.

"Science progresses through replication and contradiction. The former builds the body of evidence, the latter determines whether such a body exists," Martin says in a statement.