Department of Psychology

Instilling scientific rigour at the grassroots: New initiative for undergraduate psychology projects led from Bath

Mon Feb 22 14:53:00 GMT 2016

There is increasing awareness of the problem of unreliable findings across social, psychological and biomedical research. The ‘publish or perish’ culture, and the bias towards generating novelty and positive results, may incentivise running multiple small studies measuring multiple outcomes. This, combined with flexible analytical procedures, can generate a large number of positive results, but many will be false positive. These positive results are disproportionately rewarded with publication, potentially leading to grant funding and career advancement. Current incentive structures therefore perpetuate poor practice.

Changing these incentives requires a cultural shift in both thinking and practice. Improved doctoral and postdoctoral research methods training is vital. However, changing scientific culture can begin at the undergraduate level, instilling the principles of transparency and scientific rigor at the grassroots.

A team of GW4 psychologists, led by Dr Katherine Button for the University of Bath, have published a new initiative for improving the quality of research and training at undergraduate level in the March edition of The Psychologist.
Drawing on best practices from clinical trials and genetic consortia, the psychologists from the universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter are assessing the feasibility of an innovative consortium-based approach to undergraduate projects, to improve training and research quality.

The idea is that teams of students and their supervisors work collaboratively across universities to pool resources and deliver a high quality piece of research whilst affording excellent training in multi-centre research methods, foster collaboration, and strengthening those all-important research networks.

For more information contact Dr Button and follow the discussion on twitter @buttonkate