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Influential Paper on Gay Marriage Might Be Marred by Fraudulent Data

Harsh scrutiny of an influential political science experiment highlights the importance of transparency in research.

The paper, from UCLA graduate student Michael LaCour and Columbia University Professor Donald Green, was published in Science in December 2014. It asserted that short conversations with gay canvassers could not only change people’s minds on a divisive social issue like same-sex marriage, but could also have a contagious effect on the relatives of those in contact with the canvassers. The paper received wide attention in the press.

Yet three days ago, two graduate students from UC Berkeley, David Broockman and Joshua Kalla, published a response to the study, pointing to a number of statistical oddities, and discrepancies between how the experiment was reported and how the authors said it was conducted. Earlier in the year, impressed by the paper findings, Broockman and Kalla had attempted to conduct an extension of the study, building on the original data set. This is when they became aware of irregularities in the study methodology and decided to notify Green.

Reviewing the comments from Broockman and Kalla, Green, who was not involved in the original data collection, quickly became convinced that something was wrong – and on Tuesday, he submitted a letter to Science requesting the retraction of the paper. Green shared his view on the controversy in a recent interview, reflecting on what it meant for the broader practice of social science and highlighting the importance of integrity in research.


Data Access and Research Transparency Panel @ APSA 2014

Join the BITSS co-sponsored panel Implementing Data Access and Research Transparency: Multiple Challenges, Multiple Perspectives at the upcoming meeting of the American Political Science Association (August 27-31, 2014 — Washington, DC).

  • Colin Elman, Syracuse University
  • Arthur Lupia, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor


Reproducibility Pioneers: Political Scientists Assigning Replications to Students

Political Science Replication

Here are innovative and exciting syllabi of methods courses assigning replication studies to students. The instructors ensure that we build up a cohort of students who value reproducibility, while learning statistics at the same time.

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“We shouldn’t tell people to do whatever their moms tell them to do”

Kevin Esterling, Perspective from Political Science (II)

This is the fifth post of a video series in which we ask leading social science academics and experts to discuss research transparency in their discipline. The interview was recorded on December 13, 2013 at the University of California, Berkeley.


“I would like to see us demonstrating by example the value of this form of science”

Don Green, Perspective from Political Science

This is the second post of a video series in which we ask leading social science academics and experts to discuss research transparency in their discipline. The interview was recorded on December 13, 2013 at the University of California, Berkeley.


Replication in Political Science

Here is a new initiative seeking to promote replications of quantitative work in political science. The group of researchers behind this project aims to create a site that will publish and organize replications done by graduate students in their courses — by which they mean the exercise of conducting re-analyses using the original data/code, as well as robustness checks.

The group is now laying groundwork for their project, supported by a planning grant from the Sloan Foundation. In this phase, their goals include:

  1. Gathering detailed information about replications performed in methods courses and other graduate work
  2. Forming a network of professors who would be interested in encouraging their students to share their replications on the site

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Git/GitHub, Transparency, and Legitimacy in Quantitative Research

Reblogged from The Political Methodologist.

A complete research project hosted on GitHub is reproducible and transparent by default in a more comprehensive manner than a typical journal mandated replication archive […] Maintaining your research project on GitHub confers advantages beyond the social desireability of the practice and the the technical benefits of using a revision control system. Making your research publicly accessible in this manner makes it considerably easier to replicate, meaning that, all else equal, more people will build on your work, leading to higher citation counts and impact […] If open research of this sort was to become a norm in political science, it is hard to imagine that the field would not advance more quickly.Using Git and Github confers non-trivial technical advantages, has a low startup cost given the array of modern software that interfaces with Git, is desireable from a social perspective and an individual perspective, and provides a helpful pedagogical service as well.

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