The replication crisis and the political process

Jackson Monroe writes:

I thought you might be interested in an article [by Dan McLaughlin] in NRO that discusses the replication crisis as part of a broadside against all public health research and social science. It seemed as though the author might be twisting the nature of the replication crisis toward his partisan ends, but I was curious as to your thoughts.

From the linked article:

The social-science problem is that “public health” studies — like that NRA-convention study — can be highly subjective and ungoverned by the rigors of hard sciences that seek to test a hypothesis with results that can be replicated by other researchers. Indeed, the social sciences in general today suffer from a systemic “replication crisis,” a bias toward publishing only results that support the researcher’s hypothesis, and chronic problems with errors remaining uncorrected.

NRO is the website of the National Review, a conservative magazine, and the NRA (National Rifle Association) convention study is something we discussed in this space recently.

I think McLaughlin is probably correct that studies that seek to advance a political agenda are likely to have serious methodological problems. I’ve seen this in both the left and the right, and I don’t really know what to do about it, except to hope that all important research has active opposition. By “opposition,” I mean, ideally, honest opposition, and I don’t mean gridlock. It’s just good if serious claims are evaluated seriously, and not just automatically believed because they are considered to be on the side of the angels.

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