You know how they say don’t believe everything you read?
Per The Wall Street Journal’s recent piece on management research, this couldn’t be more true. Researchers from the University of Iowa and Longwood University analyzed academic articles on a variety of topics such as job performance.
They concluded papers were often significantly altered between the dissertation dates and publishing dates in peer-reviewed journals.
When they examined research studies at the dissertation level, 82 hypotheses were supported for every 100 that went unsupported. Essentially this means theories were disproven more than they were proven. By the time they made their way into journals, the ratio altered from 194 to 100. As in, the same exact studies!
Ernest O’Boyle, Jr., assistant professor of management and organizations at University of Iowa’s Henry B. Tippie College of Business and a co-author of the report, told The Journal:
“If practitioners can’t trust what’s coming out of academia, we don’t have a reason to exist. The rewards are all based on the ends, and there’s just not much attention paid to the means.”
Over the past 12 years, his team looked at 142 dissertations that later ran in journals. When it came to dissertations with words like “workplace deviance,” “entrepreneurial orientation” and management topics from 89 schools, almost 90 percent of them added hypotheses or dropped ones along the way. Dissertations tested 1,978 hypotheses and their published journal equivalents tested only 978.
O’Boyle would like to see an honor code in place so journal editors may require contributors sign it. He would also like researchers to retract findings if they’re unwilling to share data that would give other people the opportunity to replicate their findings.
He explained, “There’s this pandemic of computer crashes and office fires and lost moving boxes.”