Sunday, 20 September 2020

Does Preregistration Improve the Interpretablity and Credibility of Research Findings?

Preregistration entails researchers registering their planned research hypotheses, methods, and analyses in a time-stamped document before they undertake their data collection and analyses. This document is then made available with the published research report in order to allow readers to identify discrepancies between what the researchers originally planned to do and what they actually ended up doing. In a recent article (Rubin, 2020), I question whether this historical transparency facilitates judgments of credibility over and above what I call the contemporary transparency that is provided by (a) clear rationales for current hypotheses and analytical approaches, (b) public access to research data, materials, and code, and (c) demonstrations of the robustness of research conclusions to alternative interpretations and analytical approaches.
Historical Transparency
My article covers issues such as HARKing, multiple testing, p-hacking, forking paths, exploratory analyses, optional stopping, researchers’ biases, selective reporting, test severity, publication bias, and replication rates. I argue for a nuanced approach to these issues. In particular, I argue that only some of these issues are problematic, and only under some conditions. I also argue that, when they are problematic, these issues can be identified via contemporary transparency per se.
Questionable Research Practices
I conclude that preregistration’s historical transparency does not facilitate judgments about the credibility of research findings when researchers provide contemporary transparency. Of course, in many cases, researchers do not provide a sufficient degree of contemporary transparency (e.g., no open research data or materials), and in these cases preregistration’s historical transparency may provide some useful information. 
However, I argue that historical transparency is a relatively narrow, researcher-centric form of transparency because it focuses attention on the predictions made by specific researchers at a specific point in time. In contrast, contemporary transparency allows research data to be considered from multiple, unplanned, theoretical and analytical perspectives while maintaining a high degree of research credibility. Hence, I suggest that the open science movement should push more towards contemporary transparency and less towards historical transparency.
Contemporary Transparency
For further information, please see:
Rubin, M. (2020). Does preregistration improve the credibility of research findings? The Quantitative Methods in Psychology, 16(4), 376–390.
For more information about my work in this area, please see: