On doing better science: From thrill of discovery to policy implications

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On doing better science: From thrill of discovery to policy implications
The Leadership Quarterly

In this position paper, I argue that the main purpose of research is to discover and report on phenomena in a truthful manner. Once uncovered, these phenomena can have important implications for society. The utility of research depends on whether it makes a contribution because it is original or can add to cumulative research efforts, is rigorously and reliably done, and is able to inform basic or applied research and later policy. However, five serious “diseases” stifle the production of useful research. These diseases include: significosis, an inordinate focus on statistically significant results; neophilia, an excessive appreciation for novelty; theorrhea, a mania for new theory; arigorium, a deficiency of rigor in theoretical and empirical work; and finally, disjunctivitis, a proclivity to produce large quantities of redundant, trivial, and incoherent works. I surmise that these diseases have caused immense harm to science and have cast doubt on the role of science in society. I discuss what publication gatekeepers should do to eradicate these diseases, to stimulate the undertaking of more useful and impactful research, and to provide the needed incentives to better align the interests of researchers with those of the greater good. Finally, I highlight where technical improvements are needed to enhance research quality, and call on deeper reflection, transparency, and honesty in how we do research.

The Leadership Quarterly Volume 28, Issue 1, February 2017, Pages 5-21

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