WORKSHOP: Enhancing robustness and generalizability in the social and behavioral sciences

Project: Research project

Project Details


This proposal seeks support for a workshop focused on the current extreme bias favoring college students and other highly accessible study populations in the social and behavioral sciences. This ongoing disproportionate investment is several decades old and is not a new discovery, but has been made more worrisome in recent years with accumulating evidence that results from these select groups do not always generalize well to other populations. Researchers have also identified negative consequences associated with treating these convenience samples as a default (e.g., Medin et al, 2010). Furthermore more recent reviews and analyses indicate that this situation has not improved over time, suggesting that calls for broader sampling by themselves are not effective. Instead, what is needed is a systematic approach to overcoming the disincentives undermining diversity and to removing the incentive structures supporting convenience and inertia over good science practices.
This workshop will bring together scholars from a range of disciplines whose research represents positive case studies of how to overcome these barriers and the benefits of doing so. An NSF-funded planning meeting held in March 2016 identified three key goals for the workshop: (1) identifying and developing tools to enhance teaching and training, (2) identifying and developing infrastructure solutions for connecting researchers across diverse contexts and populations, and (3) encouraging institutional changes in manuscript, grant, and tenure review that encourage greater diversity in social and behavioral sciences. The key deliverables of the workshop would be: (1) a set of content-populated modules with tools and materials for students and researchers interested in enhancing diversity in their own research, (2) guidelines for increasing diversity in behavioral and social science journals, (3) a set of recommendations for infrastructure that can help forge networks among researchers.
Intellectual Merit. Long-standing and pervasive bias toward working with convenient populations in the behavioral sciences raises serious concerns that existing theoretical accounts of the mind, brain, and behavior may not accurately reflect the full range of mental and behavioral phenomena that exist in the real world. The proposed workshop aims to identify and develop tools, materials and infrastructure to encourage greater robustness and generalizability of research findings.
Broader Impacts and Contributions to Research Infrastructure. If the social and behavioral sciences are to address issues of practical relevance its advice must be derived from a sound empirical base. This workshop aims to support efforts to go beyond the very narrow sample base that much of social and behavioral science has relied on. A key focus will be to identify ways to build research infrastructure that reduce disincentives while also providing tools and incentives for pursuing research with broader samples. This will guidelines on the process of reviewing behavioral science for publication and research awards as well as developing programs and tools that would provide richer training for students in the future. Expanding the outreach should have two additional positive impacts. One is to engage a broader range of communities in research in ways that will increase their appreciation of the benefits and relevance of empirical research. The other is that a broader range of participants will encourage scholars from those communities to themselves pursue careers in social and behavioral science research and
Effective start/end date9/1/168/31/18


  • National Science Foundation (BCS-1647219)

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