Stunned, Staggered, and Amazed: A Huge Win for Open Science at JPSP

Tl;dr: The flagship journal of social psychology, JPSP, has just implemented a variety of measures that promote responsible research practices. A watershed moment for open science, this news felt like a bolt from the blue — but only because I did not take the editor’s word for it…

The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (JPSP) may be the flagship journal of social psychology, but it was never known for its welcoming attitude towards open science. For instance, not too long ago the official JPSP policy was to desk-reject all replication studies, even if the results sharply contradicted those of original work recently published in JPSP.

Almost exactly one year ago, all of this seemed to change when Dr. Shinobu Kitayama became the incoming editor of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Attitudes and Social Cognition (JPSP:ASC). His vision for the future was to

“see to it that JPSP:ASC functions as a beacon for the active, field-wide effort toward the constructive, future-oriented, positive transformation of the discipline. It is my hope that engaging in these efforts will return our community to a place that young talent willingly and safely bets their futures on. It is with this sense of mission that I feel honored to serve in this role over the next five years.”

Although this sounded promising, the actual measures that Dr. Kitayama proposed to implement were unlikely to efficiently change the status quo. We –a mix of 27 social psychologists, methodologists, and open science advocates– felt that Dr. Kitayama’s mission might be achieved more effectively if JPSP:ASC were to implement a variety of measures that promote responsible research practices. As described in an earlier blog post, we outlined our suggestions in an open letter that we then sent to JPSP.

Our open letter was desk-rejected. Unlike most rejections, this one was cause for joy, because, as mentioned in another blog post:

“Dr. Kitayama argues that the APA has recently considered a range of measures to promote open science, and he suggests that our letter is obsolete by the time it would be published. This is fantastic news, and I must admit that it surprised me a great deal. Personally, I had always believed that large institutions and big journals change their policies at a glacial pace. But here Dr. Kitayama implies that within a year or less (!), JPSP:ASC will have adopted many of the suggestions that we outlined in our letter.

Of course it remains possible that, despite one’s best intentions, the proposed changes take longer to implement than currently planned. I will remain skeptical until I see the changes implemented. Therefore I intend to submit the same letter to JPSP:ASC, every year, until either the letter or the journal have become obsolete. We will follow the upcoming policy changes at JPSP:ASC with considerable interest.”

Make no mistake: I was looking forward, with considerable glee, to submitting exactly the same letter to JPSP:ASC this very month. I simply did not trust Dr. Kitayama. I WAS WRONG. As my finger was starting to hover over the “resubmit open letter” key on my keyboard, the JPSP guidelines were updated to include a relatively comprehensive list of open science measures.

I guess it’s possible to complain about some of the details, but that just would not be right. Dr. Kitayama and JPSP deserve respect for doing the right thing. Change is always difficult, especially at renowned institutions and journals. Kudos to Dr. Kitayama, and kudos to JPSP, a journal that now upholds explicit and entirely reasonable values on reproducible science.


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About the author

Eric-Jan Wagenmakers

Eric-Jan (EJ) Wagenmakers is professor at the Psychological Methods Group at the University of Amsterdam. EJ guides the development of JASP.