An Inside Perspective of a Registered Replication Report (RRR)

Irene CheungAssistant Professor of Psychology at Western University – Huron
Lorne Campbell, Professor of Social Psychology at Western University 
Etienne LeBelBITSS Project Scientist


In the spring of 2014 we (i.e., Irene Cheung, Lorne Campbell and Etienne LeBel) decided to submit a proposal to Perspectives on Psychological Science for a Registered Replication Report (RRR) focusing on Study 1 of Finkel, Rusbult, Kumashiro and Hannon’s (2002) paper testing the causal association between commitment and forgiveness. The product of over 2 years of work by many people including us, the tireless Dan Simons (Editor of the RRR series), a cooperative and always responsive Eli Finkel (the lead author of the research to be replicated), and researchers from 15 other labs all over the world, is now finally published online. Here is our inside perspective of how the process unfolded for this RRR.

The initial vetting stage for the RRR was fairly straightforward. We answered some simple questions on the Replication Pre-Proposal Form, and provided the rationale for why we believed Study 1 of Finkel et al.’s (2002) manuscript was a good candidate for an RRR (e.g., the paper is highly cited, is theoretically important, no prior direct replications have been published). After receiving positive feedback, we were asked to provide a more thorough breakdown of the original study and the feasibility of having multiple labs all over the world conduct the same project independently. In a Replication Proposal and Review Form totaling 47 pages, we provided information regarding (a) the original study and effect(s) of interest, (b) sample characteristics of original and proposed replication studies (including power analysis), (c) researcher characteristics (including relevant training of the researcher collecting data from participants), (d) experimental design of original and proposed studies, (e) data collection (including any proposed differences from the original study, and (f) target data analysis (of both the original and planned replication studies). After receiving excellent feedback and making many edits, a draft of this document was sent to the original corresponding author (Eli Finkel). Eli very quickly provided thorough feedback, and forwarded copies of the original study materials. He also provided thoughtful feedback throughout the process as we made many decisions on how to conduct the replication study and ultimately vetted the final protocol. The RRR editors eventually gave us the green light to go forward with the project.

We were then required to organize the project. The study was programmed on Qualtrics, the protocol requirements were created, the project page on the Open Science Framework (OSF) was established, and eventually a call went out for interested researchers to submit a proposal to independently run the study and contribute data. It is near impossible to estimate the number of emails sent around between Dan, our team, and Eli during this time, as well as the number of small changes made to all of the materials along the way. Leading up to the fall of 2015, all participating labs were ready to start collecting data. Participating labs simply needed to download the necessary materials from the OSF project page, and Dan provided support to many of the labs throughout the process. Prior to data collection, the study was pre-registered on the OSF. Data collection was complete by January 2016, and it was time to prepare the R code needed to analyze the data from each lab as well as conduct the planned meta-analyses. Our team helped test the code, and then Edison Choe (working for APS) wrote the full set of code (verified by Courtney Sodenberg from the OSF). The code needed to be tweaked many times as well as to make small adjustments. All labs then ran the code with their data, and submitted the data and results to their own OSF pages, while our team wrote the manuscript before seeing the full set of results from all labs. Dan and Eli provided feedback on numerous occasions, and the full set of results was not released to us until the manuscript was considered acceptable by all parties. After the results were released we incorporated them into the manuscript and wrote a discussion section. Eli then wrote a response. After making many small edits, and sending copious amounts of email around to Dan and Eli, the manuscript was complete. All participating labs were then provided a copy of the manuscript to review for any required edits, and asked not to discuss the results with anyone not associated with the RRR until the paper was published online. Not surprisingly, a few more edits were indeed required. When completed, the manuscript was sent to the publisher and appeared online first within a week.

Overall, this was a monumental task. The manuscript can be read in minutes, the results digested in a few quick glances at the forest plots. Getting to this point, however, required the time, attention and effort of many individuals over 2 years. Seeing an RRR through to completion requires a lot of dedication, hard work, and painstaking attention to detail; it is not to be entered into lightly. But the process itself, in our opinion, represents the best of what Science can be—researchers working together in an open and transparent manner and sharing the outcome of the research process regardless of the outcome. And the outcome of this process is a wonderful set of publicly available data that helps provide more accurate estimates of the originally reported effect size(s). It is a model of what the scientific process should be, and is slowly becoming.

Blog originally posted here.

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