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The poor availability of psychological research data for reanalysis

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The origin of the present comment lies in a failed attempt to obtain, through e-mailed requests, data reported in 141 empirical articles recently published by the American Psychological Association (APA). Our original aim was to reanalyze these data sets to assess the robustness of the research findings to outliers. We never got that far. In June 2005, we contacted the corresponding author of every article that appeared in the last two 2004 issues of four major APA journals. Because their articles had been published in APA journals, we were certain that all of the authors had signed the APA Certification of Compliance With APA Ethical Principles, which includes the principle on sharing data for reanalysis. Unfortunately, 6 months later, after writing more than 400 e-mails--and sending some corresponding authors detailed descriptions of our study aims, approvals of our ethical committee, signed assurances not to share data with others, and even our full resumes-we ended up with a meager 38 positive reactions and the actual data sets from 64 studies (25.7% of the total number of 249 data sets). This means that 73% of the authors did not share their data.
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findings suggest that some sex disparities
in career preferences are consequences
rather than causes of sex disparities in the
professions. We believe that the same so-
cial dynamics influence college men’s and
women’s expressed preferences for differ-
ent kinds of careers.
Because preferences and choices are
sensitive to social conditions, it is difficult
to determine whether biologically based
sex differences in preferences, motives,
and styles also exist and whether such dif-
ferences make men better suited to careers
in mathematics and science. Contrary to
these claims, male and female infants have
been found to show equal interest in people
and objects in almost every well-controlled
study, but some studies of older children
reveal differing interests whose biological
and cultural roots are difficult to disentan-
gle. Some evolutionary psychologists sug-
gest that men’s and women’s differing
roles in reproduction led members of the
two sexes to pursue different roles in the
hunter-gatherer societies in which modern
humans evolved (Pinker, 2002). Even if
one accepts the controversial claim that
differing sex roles in Paleolithic human
societies produced differing preferences
and temperaments today, however, it is far
from clear how these differences would
impact on the career choices of aspiring
scientists. Because Paleolithic societies
contained no scientists, we can only guess
whether better science would come from
people with the personal qualities of a good
hunter or those of a good gatherer. More-
over, we do not know whether the prefer-
ences, motives, and styles that inclined
early humans toward hunting versus gath-
ering would incline today’s humans toward
biology versus physics. The immense
changes in men’s and women’s work and
lives over the course of human history sug-
gest that people are highly flexible in their
interests as well as their abilities.
Despite the great variation in human
lives and cultures over space and time,
humans have a strong tendency to attribute
their current configuration of social roles to
constant and necessary aspects of human
nature. Moreover, personality traits that are
typical of a given profession often are mis-
takenly thought to be necessary to the prac-
tice of the profession. Winston (1998) dis-
cussed a compelling example of this
confusion in the letters written by E.G.
Boring on behalf of students seeking posi-
tions in academic psychology. In the first
half of the 20th century, the academic fac-
ulties of U.S. universities were overwhelm-
ingly Christian, but Boring had a number
of talented Jewish students. How unfortu-
nate, he wrote of one student, that his con-
siderable talents for psychological theory
and experimentation could never flourish in
an academic career because he shared “the
defects of his race”: a brash, passionate,
assertive manner incompatible with ratio-
nal academic inquiry. From today’s per-
spective, it appears that Boring mistakenly
assumed that the typical mannerisms of his
Harvard colleagues were necessary for suc-
cess in science. When commentators sug-
gest today that fewer women than men
have aptitude for science because few
women have the thinking style or the as-
sertive, competitive, or aggressive person-
alities needed for success in science, we
suspect that Boring’s mistake has resur-
faced.
REFERENCES
Ackerman, P. L. (2006). Cognitive sex differ-
ences and mathematics and science achieve-
ment. American Psychologist, 61, 722–723.
American Medical Association Women Physi-
cians Congress. (2004). Women in medicine:
An AMA timeline. Retrieved April 28, 2006,
from http://www.ama-assn.org/ama1/pub/
upload/mm/19/wimtimeline.pdf
Bradt, S. (2006, February 23). High school AP
courses do not predict college success in sci-
ence. Harvard University Gazette. Retrieved
April 28, 2006, from http://www.news
.harvard.edu/gazette/2006/02.23/05-ap.html
Dai, D.Y. (2006). There is more to aptitude than
cognitive capacities. American Psychologist,
61, 723–724.
Gridley, M.C. (2006). Cognitive styles partly
explain gender disparity in engineering.
American Psychologist, 61, 724 –725.
Klopfenstein, K. (2004). Advanced Placement:
Do minorities have equal opportunity? Eco-
nomics of Education Review, 23, 115–131.
Morgan, P. & Ramist, L. (1998, February). Ad-
vanced placement students in college: An in-
vestigation of course grades at 21 colleges.
Unpublished statistical report (No. SR-98 –13)
from the Educational Testing Service. Re-
trieved April 24, 2006, from http://apcentral-
.collegeboard.com/repository/
ap01.pdf.in_7926.pdf
Neumayer, L., Kaiser, S., Anderson, K., Barney,
L., Curet, M., Jacobs, D., Lynch, T., & Gazak,
C. (2002). Perceptions of women medical stu-
dents and their influence on career choice. The
American Journal of Surgery, 183, 146 –150.
Pinker, S. (2002). The blank slate: The modern
denial of human nature. New York: Viking.
Reed, V., & Buddeberg-Fischer, B. (2001). Ca-
reer obstacles for women in medicine: An
overview. Medical Education, 35, 139 –147.
Sacchetti, M. (2006, February 18). Study hints
AP classes overrated. The Boston Globe, p.
B1.
Spelke, E. S. (2005). Sex differences in intrinsic
aptitude for mathematics and science? A crit-
ical review. American Psychologist, 60, 950
958.
Winston, A. S. (1998). “The defects of his race”:
E. G. Boring and antisemitism in American
psychology, 1923–1953. History of Psychol-
ogy, 1(1), 27–51.
Thanks to Leo Kamin and Kristin Shutts for
valuable advice and to Drew Faust and the Rad-
cliffe Institute for Advanced Study for financial
support of this project.
Correspondence concerning this comment
should be addressed to Elizabeth S. Spelke, De-
partment of Psychology, Harvard University,
1130 William James Hall, 33 Kirkland Street,
Cambridge, MA 02138. E-mail: spelke@wjh
.harvard.edu
DOI: 10.1037/0003-066X.61.7.726
The Poor Availability of
Psychological Research Data
for Reanalysis
Jelte M. Wicherts, Denny Borsboom,
Judith Kats, and Dylan Molenaar
University of Amsterdam
The origin of the present comment lies in a
failed attempt to obtain, through e-mailed
requests, data reported in 141 empirical
articles recently published by the American
Psychological Association (APA). Our
original aim was to reanalyze these data
sets to assess the robustness of the research
findings to outliers. We never got that far.
This is what happened. In June 2005,
we contacted the corresponding author of
every article that appeared in the last two
2004 issues of four major APA journals:
Journal of Personality and Social Psychol-
ogy, Developmental Psychology, Journal
of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, and
Journal of Experimental Psychology:
Learning, Memory, and Cognition.We
chose to contact these authors because their
articles had been published in prominent
journals, which would ensure that the arti-
cles were of high scientific quality and that
the authors were outstanding researchers
(all of these journals have rejection rates of
over 70%). Also, the fact that the articles
were published recently meant that most
authors probably still had access to their
data and would be able to send them elec-
tronically. A final reason for contacting
these authors was that, because their arti-
cles had been published in APA journals,
we were certain that all of them had signed
the APA Certification of Compliance With
APA Ethical Principles, which includes the
principle on sharing data for reanalysis.
This principle is as follows:
After research results are published, psycholo-
gists do not withhold the data on which their
conclusions are based from other competent pro-
fessionals who seek to verify the substantive
726 October 2006
American Psychologist
claims through reanalysis and who intend to use
such data only for that purpose, provided that the
confidentiality of the participants can be pro-
tected and unless legal rights concerning propri-
etary data preclude their release. (American Psy-
chological Association, 2001, p. 396)
Note that our study fit this description
adequately: We had no other plans for the
data except doing simple reanalyses with
various techniques to verify the robustness
of substantive conclusions to the influence
of outliers. In our e-mail to the correspond-
ing authors, we explicitly stated our mis-
sion in these terms, so that the text of the
e-mail matched that of the APA guideline
closely. Little could go wrong—or so we
thought.
The Problem
As the 141 articles included a total of 249
studies, we considered acquiring 90 to 100
data sets a realistic aim. We reasoned that
adding a follow-up request after the origi-
nal e-mail would take us a long way in that
direction. Unfortunately, 6 months later,
after writing more than 400 e-mails—and
sending some corresponding authors de-
tailed descriptions of our study aims, ap-
provals of our ethical committee, signed
assurances not to share data with others,
and even our full resumes—we ended up
with a meager 38 positive reactions and the
actual data sets from 64 studies (25.7% of
the total number of 249 data sets). This
means that 73% of the authors did not share
their data.
Interestingly, the current response rate
shows a remarkable similarity to the re-
sponse rate (24%) that Wolins (1962) re-
ported over 40 years ago after his student
had requested data from authors of 37 ar-
ticles in several APA journals. Moreover,
in a time when data were not electronically
available, not readily copied, and not sent
easily by e-mail, Craig and Reese (1973)
received 38% of the data sets they re-
quested from research published in four
APA journals. One of those journals hap-
pened to be the Journal of Personality and
Social Psychology (JPSP). Thirty years
ago, despite a lack of APA guidelines con-
cerning storage and sharing of data, 75% of
data sets published in JPSP were shared for
reanalysis (Craig & Reese, 1973). Nowa-
days, one would think that sending data is
but a few mouse clicks away. However, as
of 2005, only 22% of the data sets pub-
lished in this journal were available for
reanalysis. For the Journal of Consulting
and Clinical Psychology and the Journal of
Experimental Psychology: Learning, Mem-
ory, and Cognition, we received data from
22% and 41% of the studies, respectively.
Of a total of 52 studies reported in the two
latest 2004 issues of Developmental Psy-
chology, only data from 8 studies (15%)
were sent to us. In other words, we were
not able to verify by reanalysis whether the
conclusions of 85% of the studies in this
journal would have been different absent
the effects of outliers.
Figure 1 shows a detailed overview of
the distribution of corresponding authors
over several response categories. These re-
sults strike us as dramatic. Of course, ac-
cidents happen— data get lost, e-mail ad-
dresses become inactive, and computers
crash— but a nonresponse of 73% signals a
very serious problem even on its most fa-
vorable interpretation.
We think that the root of the problem
lies in the following aspects of the re-
searchers’ situation. Sharing data involves
a lot of work for most researchers; in our
study, many of the authors who did share
their data took considerable time and effort
to provide us with a manageable data file
and usable codebook. Such work has little
to no payoff, as the relevant data have
already been published and one does not
stand to gain much by having other re-
searchers check one’s results. Of course,
the APA Ethical Principles are in place,
and perhaps most researchers did feel
obliged to act in accordance with them.
However, like everybody else, researchers
are busy people who generally have better
things to do than prepare data files and
codebooks for a few nosy psychologists
from Amsterdam. Such is the human con-
dition.
A Proposed Solution
Fortunately, there is a rather simple solu-
tion to this problem. That solution lies at
the editorial end of the publishing process.
It seems to us that in the electronic age, it
would be easy to modify the manuscript
submission process to avoid this problem.
Only two modifications are necessary,
namely: (a) that upon the acceptance of a
manuscript for publication, authors be re-
quired to submit an ASCII file with anony-
mized data, as well as a codebook in stan-
dardized format and (b) that the journal
publish the data and codebook on the
World Wide Web as an electronic appendix
to the article.
Naturally, authors would only be re-
quired to provide data that were used in the
analyses reported in the article. They
would not be required to provide all the
data that were gathered in the study under
consideration; such a requirement would be
both troublesome and unreasonable. If
there were proprietary or other issues that
precluded the publication of data, authors
could request dispensation (which would
have the additional benefit of enhancing
transparency with respect to the important
question of who actually owns the data).
As an example of how this would
work, suppose that an author reports a mul-
tivariate analysis of variance with n
1,000, three dependent variables, four in-
dependent variables, and a covariate. In
this case, the corresponding data file is
simply a text file of eight columns and
1,000 rows. The codebook simply states
which column corresponds to which vari-
able in the article (in addition to the coding
of missing data, if any). Note that we are
not proposing the publication of the sort of
full codebooks and scoring protocols that
allow the reader to reconstruct the entire
research process; hence, for truly detailed
reanalyses, one would still have to contact
the author. Rather, we are proposing a sim-
ple and easy method to ensure that the APA
ethical guidelines are effective. In most
cases, this would not cost the author or the
journal much more work than is already
being done in the editorial process. But the
benefits of these modifications would be
considerable.
First, it would become much easier to
reanalyze data; one could, for instance,
quickly and effectively confirm the robust-
ness of results with respect to various sta-
tistical analyses (e.g., parametric or non-
parametric techniques). Second, the
feasibility of doing meta-analyses would be
greatly enhanced, which would facilitate
assessments of the magnitude of effects
and the stability of research findings. Third,
Figure 1.
Percentages of Empirical Articles’
Corresponding Authors in Different
Response Categories
727October 2006
American Psychologist
it would be easy to address any question
one might entertain with respect to data
massaging or overly favorable descriptions
of results; in addition, such instances of
dubious science would, in all likelihood,
become highly infrequent as soon as au-
thors knew that other researchers would be
looking over their shoulders. Fourth, the
procedure would open up a new critical
dimension in science because it would be
not just the researcher’s interpretation of
the data that entered the public discourse of
science, but the data themselves. Fifth,
once data were available on the Web, they
would remain available (to all, including
the author himself or herself), so that the
scientific process would no longer be ham-
pered by the fact that, after a few years
have passed, researchers are often unable to
locate their data, may have moved to a
different university, or may have discontin-
ued scientific work altogether. Sixth, and
perhaps most important, scientific evidence
should be publicly accessible as a matter of
principle; anybody who wants to play in
the scientific arena will have to come in
with open sight. A procedure like the one
proposed would thus increase the openness
of scientific research.
It seems to us that, considering the
ratio of the benefits achieved in this manner
to the costs involved in terms of extra
work, this is a bargain. We therefore sug-
gest that the APA journals incorporate the
proposed procedure in the publication pro-
cess.
REFERENCES
American Psychological Association. (2001).
Ethical standards for the reporting and pub-
lishing of scientific information. In Publica-
tion manual of the American Psychological
Association (5th ed., pp. 387–396). Washing-
ton, DC: Author.
Craig, J. R., & Reese, S. C. (1973). Retention of
raw data: A problem revisited. American Psy-
chologist, 28, 723.
Wolins, L. (1962). Responsibility for raw data.
American Psychologist, 17, 657– 658.
Correspondence concerning this comment
should be addressed to Jelte M. Wicherts, De-
partment of Psychology, Psychological Meth-
ods, University of Amsterdam, Roetersstraat 15,
1018 WB Amsterdam, The Netherlands. E-mail:
j.m.wicherts@uva.nl
728 October 2006
American Psychologist
... As should be evident given the discussion in the preceding sections, in many ways, we have departed from Merton's ethos. Frequently, the validity of claims is not evaluated independently from the stature, nationality, or other characteristics of the researchers involved (Huber et al., 2022); scientific products are held secret and not the common property of the broader research community; research outcomes are affected by desires for personal gain and self-interest; and, all too often, the evidence supporting claims is not sufficiently scrutinised (Wicherts et al., 2006;Nosek et al., 2012;Smaldino & McElreath, 2016). ...
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... For example, the results of earlier research studies (i.e. Wicherts et al., 2006;Wicherts and Bakker, 2012) should be tested for their generalizability. Earlier replication attempts have questioned the applicability of ELM. ...
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Comments on a Iowa State University graduate student's endeavor of requiring data of a particular kind in order to carry out a study for his master's thesis. This student wrote to 37 authors whose journal articles appeared in APA journals between 1959 and 1961. Of these authors, 32 replied. Twenty-one of those reported the data misplaced, lost, or inadvertently destroyed. Two of the remaining 11 offered their data on the conditions that they be notified of our intended use of their data, and stated that they have control of anything that we would publish involving these data. Errors were found in some of the raw data that was obtained which caused a dilemma of either reporting the errors or not. The commentator states that if it were clearly set forth by the APA that the responsibility for retaining raw data and submitting them for scrutiny upon request lies with the author, this dilemma would not exist. The commentator suggests that a possibly more effective means of controlling quality of publication would be to institute a system of quality control whereby random samples of raw data from submitted journal articles would be requested by editors and scrutinized for accuracy and the appropriateness of the analysis performed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Requested raw data from a sample of authors in 1 issue of 4 psychological journals which vary from "hard" to "soft" scientific methodology in the articles published. Despite differences between the authors in the "hard" and "soft" journals, replies indicate that at present there is a greater tendency toward sharing data than has been reported previously. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Black and Hispanic high school students enroll in Advanced Placement (AP) courses at approximately half the rate of white students. This paper develops a microeconomic model of the AP participation decision and finds that low income is the single most important factor behind the minority AP participation gap. In addition, minority students enroll in AP math, science, and English at lower rates than comparable white students. Magnet schools promote AP participation among white students but reduce participation among college-bound black students. Race-matched role models promote AP-taking among high-achieving black males, and AP incentive programs have the potential to dramatically increase minority student participation. Policy implications include reducing the impersonal nature of large high schools by creating smaller “schools-within-a-school” while maintaining flexibility across academic tracks, eliminating magnet programs, hiring qualified AP teachers to actively mentor minority students, and implementing incentive programs that promote teacher training and provide incentives for student achievement.
Article
In The Blank Slate, Steven Pinker, one of the world's leading experts on language and the mind, explores the idea of human nature and its moral, emotional, and political colorings. With characteristic wit, lucidity, and insight, Pinker argues that the dogma that the mind has no innate traits-a doctrine held by many intellectuals during the past century-denies our common humanity and our individual preferences, replaces objective analyses of social problems with feel-good slogans, and distorts our understanding of politics, violence, parenting, and the arts. Injecting calm and rationality into debates that are notorious for ax-grinding and mud-slinging, Pinker shows the importance of an honest acknowledgment of human nature based on science and common sense.
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This article describes the current position of women in the field of medicine. Material was gathered using a MEDLINE search for recent articles on women's career progress in medicine and data from the Association of American Medical Colleges. Although women now make up a large proportion of the medical student body in industrialized nations, they are still under-represented in a number of disciplines and in the higher echelons of medicine. A number of possible obstacles to career goals that presumably act synergistically include domestic responsibilities, rigidity in career structures and discrimination. Organizations in the field of medicine can look to the business world for 'best practices' aimed at advancing women to incorporate in their own organization. Medical schools and other institutions are taking the issue seriously as can be seen from the variety of government and institution-based initiatives directed at improving the role of women in medicine.
Article
Although women make up nearly half of medical school classes in the United States, just over 20% of residents in surgery are women (excluding obstetrics/gynecology). The objective of this study was to identify whether the proportion of women surgeons on the faculty who have frequent encounters with medical students during their surgery rotation influences the student's perceptions about women surgeons or their career choice. Seven US medical schools with proportions of women surgeons on the fulltime faculty varying from 10% to 40% were selected to participate in this survey. Women medical students graduating in the spring of 2000 were asked to complete an anonymous 29 question survey designed to assess their perceptions of women surgeons' career satisfaction. Demographic information about the students such as career choice, age, and marital status was also collected. The differences in responses between those schools with 40% women faculty and those with less than 15% were analyzed. The overall response rate was 74% (305 of 413). Forty-five percent of students had daily or weekly contact with a woman surgery attending. There were no differences in perceptions of women surgeons' career satisfaction for those students at schools with 40% women surgeons versus those with less than 15%. However, 21 of 24 (88%) students choosing surgery as a career were from the three schools with a greater number of women surgical role models (P <0.0001). Students who chose a career in surgery perceived the women faculty's career satisfaction to be higher than did those students not choosing a surgical career (P <0.01). Women medical students perception of women surgeons' career satisfaction did not appear to be affected by the proportion of women surgeons on the faculty at their medical school. However, their choice of surgery as a career was strongly associated with a higher proportion of women on the surgical faculty.