Cure the cause, not the symptoms: Pre-registration will not remediate the perverse academic incentive system
The “crisis of confidence” in psychological research is fueled by concerns about the replicability of key results and the widespread use of questionable research practices, such as the selective reporting of significant results. The controversy has drawn widespread public attention and triggered a broad range of attempts to identify and remedy the factors that contributed to the crisis. Although the proposed recommendations vary considerably in focus, they often aim to restrict researchers’ degrees of freedom and analytic flexibility. In this talk, I argue that psychology’s reform movement cannot succeed in the absence of profound changes in the present academic culture and incentive system. As long as academic journals prefer strong claims and clean stories as opposed to the messy reality, and as long as funding agencies and universities make their decisions based on performance metrics valuing quantity over quality, researchers are unlikely to resist the temptation to take shortcuts, exaggerate claims, and aim for high-impact journals that place more emphasis on novelty than rigor.