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Political Science Group Moves Ahead on Transparency

November 30, 2015

The American Political Science Association is moving forward with plans to adopt new transparency standards for published research, over many scholars’ concerns that the change comes too soon with too little discussion. In a lengthy announcement last week, the current, future and immediate past presidents of the association said the Data Access and Research Transparency Guidelines (DA-RT) initiative was necessary to protect the scholarly integrity of both quantitative and qualitative work, to promote “shared engagement around a set of evidence and plausible interpretations,” and to enable replication of results and checks on interpretation of data.

“The social sciences, like the natural sciences and medical research, are facing rising expectations for accountability,” the association presidents wrote. “Publishers such as Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press and Sage are similarly moving to support greater transparency of evidence and analytic strategies. Our legitimacy as scholars and political scientists in speaking to the public on issues of public concern rests in part on whether we adopt and maintain common standards for evaluating evidence-based knowledge claims.”

Jennifer Hochschild, association president and the Henry LaBarre Jayne Professor of Government and professor of African and African-American studies at Harvard University, wrote the letter, along with David A. Lake, president-elect and the Jerri-Ann and Gary E. Jacobs Professor of Social Sciences, distinguished professor of political science, and associate dean of social sciences at the University of California at San Diego, and Rodney E. Hero, immediate past president and professor of political science and Haas Chair in Diversity and Democracy at the University of California at Berkeley.

They acknowledge in their note some scholars’ concerns that the transparency standards will be adopted by 27 major political science journals starting Jan. 16, and pledge to establish a task force on professional ethics to address some of the outstanding issues. Among other concerns, critics of the standards have questioned how more data access and transparency can be achieved regarding confidential data from human subjects. “Disagreements will surely persist, but we hope that decisions about policies such as DA-RT will be based on deliberation, mutual trust and shared accommodation; that is the mark of a professional association of which we can all be proud members,” the letter says.

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Colleen Flaherty

Colleen Flaherty, Reporter, covers faculty issues for Inside Higher Ed. Prior to joining the publication in 2012, Colleen was military editor at the Killeen Daily Herald, outside Fort Hood, Texas. Before that, she covered government and land use issues for the Greenwich Time and Hersam Acorn Newspapers in her home state of Connecticut. After graduating from McGill University in Montreal in 2005 with a degree in English literature, Colleen taught English and English as a second language in public schools in the Bronx, N.Y. She earned her M.S.Ed. from City University of New York Lehman College in 2008 as part of the New York City Teaching Fellows program. 

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