Monday 11 November 2019

Guest post by Claudio Tennie: Why I am resigning as Associate Editor from Proceedings B today

The following is a guest post published at the request of my colleague, Dr Claudio Tennie, University of Tübingen.
I have always been fond of Royal Society Proceedings B. And yet, today I am resigning in protest as one of their Associate Editors. What happened? 
Earlier this year, a group of people, spearheaded by Dr. Ljerka Ostojic, approached Proceedings B with a well-versed request: that it should adopt Registered Reports. Yet, to our dismay, they declined to do so.
We are now very aware of the various replication crises in many fields. A lack of robust findings is not surprising, and is indeed the logical outcome, of the current system. To be blunt, this system actively selects for bad science. In order to (once again) explain how and why Registered Reports can drastically help this situation, a comparison between science and car crash testing might be helpful.
It is safe to say that none of us would like to live in a world where all cars are advertised as having five star crash test ratings, but where, in reality, many should really rate as zero stars. This would be the expected case in a world where car crash outcomes were measured by car makers and selected by car-sellers. Why? Because capitalistic forces would select both for invalid crash testing and biased crash test reporting. Allowing Registered Reports is the logical equivalent to checking crash test dummies before they are being used in car crashes and also then publicising all outcomes of all crash tests.
Likewise, in science, we want to know which hypotheses find support and which do not. And we want to use the best methods to arrive at these conclusions. Currently, we often use sub-ideal methods, which alongside the inherent biases towards publishing positive findings, selects for bad science. As a result, it is even not clear what proportion of positive findings within the suspiciously large mountain of positive findings are valid. The current situation is an absurd and truly unbearable situation – wasting time, money and energy galore. We urgently need to change it.
Of course, an especially efficient policy is to properly check crash test dummies pre-test; and to publish all crash test results. Registered reports creates exactly this situation for the scientific field. In Registered Reports, methods are properly checked before they are applied. And the eventual publication must report all results – and will be published regardless the specific outcomes. While this does not mean that every study can be a Registered Report – there are exceptions to the rule (see the FAQ section here) – many should be. As a result of this simple and compelling logic, the number of journals adopting Registered Reports is constantly increasing.
I was therefore very disappointed to witness Proceedings B refusing to adopt Registered Reports. Moreover they did so on the very unconvincing grounds that one of their sister journals (Royal Society Open Science) already allows them. The general problem persists with every (suitable) journal that refuses to allow Registered Reports. Proceedings B should adopt Registered Reports. But because they refuse to do so, I must protest. I am therefore resigning as an Associate Editor at Proceedings B.

Claudio Tennie