Only a small number of psychology journals encourage the submission of ‘replication studies,’ an important part of the scientific process where scientists try and reproduce the outcomes of previous studies to verify their results are accurate and genuine.
The findings, from Regent’s University London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, raise significant questions about the presentation of scientific research and the willingness of media to further address the outcomes of research.
The study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, provides one reason why replications may not be performed or published enough.
“Science progresses through replication and contradiction.The former builds the body of evidence, and the latter determines whether such a body exists,” said Professor Neil Martin, Head of Psychology at Regent’s University London and lead author on the study.
“We wanted to investigate whether journals specifically reject – or do not recommend – the submission of replications. We did this by examining the aims and instructions to authors of 1,151 journals in psychology. No-one, to date, had actually examined whether journals did accept replications of other studies for publication.”
Of the psychology journals examined, only about three percent (33 in total) specifically stated that replications would be accepted. The majority (63 percent) did not state that they accepted replications, but did not discourage them either. Some 33 percent implicitly discouraged replication studies.
Twelve journals explicitly did not accept replications for publication.
Despite this mixed picture, Professor Martin and his colleagues believe there is a way for psychology and other disciplines to put their houses in order.
“We’ve suggested that all journals in psychology should state that they accept replications that are positive and negative,” he said.
“Researchers could also provide two papers for publication when they submit original research – one which reports the original results, and one replication which acts as a test of the original findings.
“Pre-registering a study –where you detail in advance exactly what you will be doing, with who, and using what analysis – will also help. This is, very slowly, becoming a feature of modern scientific publishing.”