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Questionable Research Practices and Open Science in Quantitative Criminology

Abstract

Objectives

Questionable research practices (QRPs) lead to incorrect research results and contribute to irreproducibility in science. Researchers and institutions have proposed open science practices (OSPs) to improve the detectability of QRPs and the credibility of science. We examine the prevalence of QRPs and OSPs in criminology, and researchers’ opinions of those practices.

Methods

We administered an anonymous survey to authors of articles published in criminology journals. Respondents self-reported their own use of 10 QRPs and 5 OSPs. They also estimated the prevalence of use by others, and reported their attitudes toward the practices.

Results

QRPs and OSPs are both common in quantitative criminology, about as common as they are in other fields. Criminologists who responded to our survey support using QRPs in some circumstances, but are even more supportive of using OSPs. We did not detect a significant relationship between methodological training and either QRP or OSP use. Support for QRPs is negatively and significantly associated with support for OSPs. Perceived prevalence estimates for some practices resembled a uniform distribution, suggesting criminologists have little knowledge of the proportion of researchers that engage in certain questionable practices.

Conclusions

Most quantitative criminologists in our sample have used QRPs, and many have used multiple QRPs. Moreover, there was substantial support for QRPs, raising questions about the validity and reproducibility of published criminological research. We found promising levels of OSP use, albeit at levels lagging what researchers endorse. The findings thus suggest that additional reforms are needed to decrease QRP use and increase the use of OSPs.

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Notes

  1. https://github.com/alexholcombe/ChinHolcombePickettVazireCrimSurvey/.

  2. Randomization of question ordering (see below) meant that breakoffs equally (on expectation) affected all practices, but also meant that item nonresponse was not concentrated at the end of the survey. As a result, there are many respondents who answered questions about only one randomly presented QRP or OSP.

  3. In using the 0–100% response scale, our assumption was that criminologists would be as able to use it as laypeople, who regularly respond on this scale in major surveys (Manski 2004).

  4. Because this may bias the coefficients toward 0, such that estimates are underestimates, we estimated supplementary models using only those respondents with complete data on the indices. The findings were the same.

  5. The findings are the same when negative binomial regression is used for the outcome variables measuring usage.

  6. We define support as any answer other than “never.”.

  7. CIs calculated as -/ + 1.96*(sd/(sqrt(n)).

  8. https://www.criminologyopen.com/pub/open-letter-to-asc-concerning-green-access-to-its-journals/release/21.

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Correspondence to Jason M. Chin.

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Jason Chin is the president of the Association for Interdisciplinary Meta-research and Open Science (AIMOS), a charitable organization. This is an upaid position.

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Appendix: Distribution of Outcomes Used in the Regression Models

Appendix: Distribution of Outcomes Used in the Regression Models

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Chin, J.M., Pickett, J.T., Vazire, S. et al. Questionable Research Practices and Open Science in Quantitative Criminology. J Quant Criminol (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10940-021-09525-6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10940-021-09525-6

Keywords

  • Questionable research practices
  • Meta-research
  • Open science
  • Reproducibility