Psychology journal editor asked to resign for refusing to review papers unless he can see the data

Psychologist Gert Storms doesn't want to review scientific papers if their authors refuse to share with him the underlying data. The American Psychological Association (APA), which publishes the journal he edits, has asked him to resign.

Nature.com's Gautam Naik reports that the effort to force him out is a test of The Peer Reviewer's Opennness Initiative, a move crafted to "increase transparency in a field beset by reports of fraud and dubious research."

Storms, a psychologist at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium and a consulting editor for the APA’s Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, accepted an invitation last year to review a study for the journal, and pointed out his new open-data policy. The journal's editor, Robert Greene, wrote back to say that Storms’s stance set “a terrible precedent” because it was unfair to the author of the paper and opposed the APA’s policies and the guidelines followed by other reviewers. “Given that your policy conflicts with that of the journal, I think that it's best that you step down from the editorial board,” he wrote.

Storms refused, writing that he would continue to do what he thought was necessary to “prevent sloppy science”. And he forwarded his correspondence to other editors at the journal. Two of them, Robert Hartsuiker and Marc Brysbaert, both psychologists at Ghent University in Belgium, wrote to Greene saying that they, too, would quit if Storms was forced to resign. "The policy of asking people to leave rather than inviting a discussion and getting critical voices — I found that quite inappropriate," said Hartsuiker.

A 2006 study showed that 73% of psychologists refuse to show their data after publication, even after agreeing to do so. It sounds shady, but Nature's article seems to suggest that an embarrassed unfamiliarity with the rigors of science is still sadly at hand in the halls of psychology:

... surveyed 600 researchers in the field to understand barriers to data sharing. The main explanations that they gave were: data sharing is an uncommon practice in the field; researchers prefer to share data only on request; it is time consuming; and researchers have never learned how to share data properly. Wagenmakers’ survey results have not yet been published.

Despite prolonged pressure, the APA hasn’t changed its data policies for years

Oh man, wait 'til you get a load of sociology! We have much better excuses for this sort of thing.

Photo credit: Gert Storms