In response to the concerns raised by colleagues (principally and initially in this petition, but see also Chris Blattman’s take and other responses from both sides), I wanted to clarify why I think that delaying implementation of the Journal Editors’ Transparency Statement (JETS) is a poorly thought out goal, one that will differentially disadvantage some scholars, particularly younger, less well-known scholars.
These Standards Are Already Being Implemented. To begin, and reiterate one of the arguments I made here a few days ago, journal editors already have the unilateral discretion to impose the kinds of policies that JETS is calling upon editors to implement. To wit, editors are already implementing policies along these lines. For example, see the submission/replication guidelines of the American Journal of Political Science, American Political Science Review, and the Journal of Politics, to name only three. These three vary in details, but they are consistent with JETS as they stand right now.
It’s Happening Anyway, Let’s Stay In Front of It. The point is that the JETS implementation is already under way and, indeed, was underway prior to the drafting of JETS. The DA-RT initiative is simply providing a public good: a forum for exactly the conversations that the petition signers seek. (The individuals who have contributed time to the public good that is DA-RT, and their contributions, are described here.)
The Clarifying Quality of Deadlines. The “implementation of JETS” scheduled for January 2016 is best viewed as a moment of public recognition that we as a discipline need to continue the conversations. Editorial policies are not written in stone, after all. Thus I strongly believe that delaying the implementation of JETS will do nothing other than further muddy the waters for scholars. JETS is about recognizing and shepherding the movement towards more coherent and uniform procedures to increase the transparency of social science research. Delaying it will place scholars, particularly junior and less well-known scholars, at a disadvantage. This is because implementation of the JETS will give all scholars firmer ground to stand on when seeking clarification of the details of a journal’s replication and transparency requirements.
Clear Policies Level the Playing Field and Make Editors (more) Accountable. Furthermore, scholars will be able to publicly compare and contrast these procedures, allowing more judicious selection of research design, early preparation of justifications for requests for exemptions, and finally, a counterpoint for an editorial decision that is inconsistent with the standards of peer outlets. That is, if journal X decides that one’s research is sufficiently transparent and then journal Y decides otherwise, the transparency of those journals’ standards—which JETS aims to ensure are publicly available—will ensure that the journals’ standards are fair game for comparison and debate. This is the type of conversation sought by many of the petition signers I have spoken with. Implementation of JETS will push this conversation forward, whereas delay will simply retain the status quo of an incoherent bundle of idiosyncratic policies.
Will The Sun Rise on January 15, 2016? It is important to keep in mind that the implementation of the JETS statement will in most cases result in no new policy: journal editors have been setting and fine-tuning standards like these for decades. Rather, implementing JETS binds editors—like myself—more closely to the sought-after conversations about how best to achieve transparency in the various subfields and with respect to the various methodologies of our discipline.
In other words, implementation of JETS will empower scholars to demand more transparency and accountability from the editors of the 27 journals that have signed the statement.
With that, I leave you with this.