For more than six years, JEPS has been publishing student research, both in the form of classic Research Articles as well as Literature Reviews. As of April 2016, JEPS offers another publishing format: Registered Reports. In this blog post we explain what Registered Reports are, why they could be interesting for you as a student, and how the review process works.
What are Registered Reports?
Registered Reports are a new form of research article, in which the editorial decision is based on peer review that takes place before data collection. The review process is thereby divided into two stages: first, your research question and methodology is evaluated, while the data is yet to be collected. In case your Registered Report gets in-principle accepted, you are guaranteed to get your final manuscript published once the data is collected – irrespective of your findings. The second step of the review process then only consists of checking whether you sticked to the methodology you proposed in the Registered Report.
The format of Registered Reports alleviates many problems associated with the current publishing culture, such as the publication bias (see also our previous post): For instance, the decision whether the manuscript gets published is independent of the outcome of statistical tests and therefore publication bias is ruled out. Also, you have to stick to the hypothesis and methodology in your Registered Report and therefore a clear line between exploratory and confirmatory research is maintained.
How does the review process work exactly?
You submit a manuscript consisting of the motivation (introduction) of your research and a detailed description of your hypotheses and the methodology and analysis you intend to use to investigate your hypotheses. Your research plan will then be reviewed by at least two researchers who are experts in your field of psychology. Note that in case
Reviewers might ask for revisions of your proposed methodology or analysis. Once all reviewer concerns have been sufficiently addressed, the Registered Report is accepted. This means that you can now collect your data and if you don’t make important changes to your hypotheses and methodology, you are guaranteed publication of your final manuscript, in format very similar to our Research Articles. Any changes have to be clearly indicated as such. In the second stage of the review process, they will be examined.
Why are Registered Reports interesting for you as a student?
First, you get feedback about your project from experts in your field of psychology. It is very likely that this feedback will make your research stronger and improves your design design. This avoids the situation that you collected your data but then realize during the review process that your methodology is not watertight. Therefore, Registered Reports offer you the chance to rule out methodological problems before collecting the data, possibly saving a lot of headache after. And then having your publication assured.
Second, it takes away the pressure to get “good results” as your results are published regardless of the outcome of your analysis. Further, the fact that your methodology was reviewed before data collection allows to give null-results more weight. Normally, registered reports also include control conditions that help interpreting any (null-) results.
Lastly, Registered Reports enable you to be open and transparent about your scientific practices. When your work is published as a Registered Report, there is a clear separation between confirmatory and exploratory data analysis. While you can change your analysis after your data collection is completed, you have to declare and explain the changes.This adds credibility to the conclusions of your paper and increases the likelihood that future research can build on your work.
And lastly, some practical points
Before you submit, you therefore need to think about, in detail, the research question you want to investigate, and how you plan to analyse your data. This includes a description of your procedures in sufficient detail that others can replicate it and of your proposed sample, a definition of exclusion criteria, a plan of your analysis (incl. Pre-processing steps), and, if you want to do Null Hypothesis significance testing, a power analysis.
Further, you can withdraw your study at any point – however, when this happens after the in-principle acceptance, many journals will publish your work in a special section of the journal called “Withdrawn Reports”. The great thing is that null-result need not to dishearten you – if you received an IPA, your study will still be published – and given that it was pre-registered and pre-peer reviewed, chances are high that others can built on your null-result.
Lastly, you should note that you need not register your work with a journal – you can also register it on the Open Science Framework, for example. In this case, however, your work won’t be reviewed.
Are you as excited about Registered Reports as we are? Are you considering submitting your next project as a Registered Report? Check out our Submission guidelines for further info. Also, please do not hesitate to contact us in case you have any questions!
Chambers et al., (2013): Open letter to the Guardian
Gelman & Loken (2013): Garden of forking paths