Why I signed a petition against transparent research in political science

“Hey, your tenure letters are going out in a few months, so you should inject yourself into the most controversial debate of the year in the discipline,” said no one ever.

What’s the debate? It’s over DA-RT, short for Data Access and Research Transparency. And it’s opening an old split in the discipline.

For some reason, it struck me as a good idea to explain what’s going on, and take a position, in WashPo’s Monkey Cage:

Even before the recent scandal about fake data, editors from 27 political science journals signed on to a DA-RT transparency statement. It commits the journal to certain principles, such as requiring authors to “ensure that cited data are available at the time of publication through a trusted digital repository”…

For the kind of statistical, data-driven work I do, the requirements are pretty clear and (to me) make perfect sense. There need to be some exceptions and protections, but my sense is that most quantitative scholars are on board with the idea of sharing their data and code.

In the past few weeks, though, a number of my colleagues doing other kinds of work have said, “Wait a second, what does this mean for us?” Last week, six professors started an online petition asking the profession to hold off on enforcing the DA-RT principles. The basic thrust: “Can we talk about this more?” Hundreds of scholars have signed — including friends and colleagues whose work I enjoy and whose opinions I respect.

…So far, DA-RT supporters have put little meat on the bones of their principles. From where I stand, qualitative scholars look to be bearing a lot of risk. Nobody likes uncertainty, especially when your career could be on the line. I’d like to give more time for qualitative standards and norms to be debated and evolve.

In the meantime, let’s move ahead with clear standards for quantitative work. After many years of debate, it’s relatively clear how transparency and data access works for people who rely on quantitative data.

You can read the full thing to find out why I feel this way, and why I think you should too. Here is the petition.