This economics journal only publishes results that are no big deal
May 18, 2019 10:01 PM   Subscribe

Start with the name: Series of Unsurprising Results in Economics (SURE). The journal publishes papers with findings that are, well, really boring — so boring that other journals rejected them just for being boring. Its first paper, published Tuesday, is about an education intervention that was found to have no effects at all on anything.
posted by Chrysostom (22 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
It's wonderful to see people taking a deliberate step toward reproducible science.
posted by Phssthpok at 10:43 PM on May 18 [24 favorites]

Oh, they stole that idea from the prestigious medical journal Doctors with Unsurprising Headlines.

Reproducing science is important, but ... economics? Giving that some side-eye.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:58 PM on May 18 [2 favorites]

Dear Gods when does the Journal of Fully Repeatable Pharmacological Experiments become a thing?
posted by Ignorantsavage at 11:00 PM on May 18 [3 favorites]

It was Arthur Conan Doyle (in the character of Sherlock Holmes) who said "Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable​, must be the truth." So this may turn out to be one of the most valuable scholarly journals of the 21st century.
posted by oneswellfoop at 11:03 PM on May 18 [3 favorites]

Dear Gods when does the Journal of Fully Repeatable Pharmacological Experiments become a thing?

I think PiHKAL and TiHKAL are lovely additions to any home library and make great gifts.
posted by Revvy at 11:10 PM on May 18 [8 favorites]

It would be interesting to know how the date of the authorship of Holmes' statement fits into the timeline of Conan Doyle's Spiritualism:
During 1916, at the height of World War I, a change came over Conan Doyle's beliefs prompted by the apparent psychic abilities of his children's nanny, Lily Loder Symonds.[70] This, combined with the deaths he saw around him, made him rationalise that Spiritualism was a "New Revelation"[71] sent by God to bring solace to the bereaved. The New Revelation was the title of his first Spiritualist work, published two years later. In the intervening years, he wrote to Light magazine about his faith and lectured frequently on the truth of Spiritualism.

War-related deaths close to him certainly strengthened his long-held belief in life after death and spirit communication, though it is wrong to claim that the death of his son, Kingsley, turned him to Spiritualism, as is often stated. Doyle came out as a Spiritualist to the public in 1916, a full two years before his son's death.[71] It was on 28 October 1918 that Kingsley died from pneumonia contracted during his convalescence after being seriously wounded in the 1916 Battle of the Somme. Doyle's brother Brigadier-general Innes Doyle died, also from pneumonia, in February 1919. His two brothers-in-law (one of whom was E. W. Hornung, creator of the literary character Raffles) and his two nephews also died shortly after the war. His second book on Spiritualism, The Vital Message, appeared in 1919.
. . .
Because I think it could go either way — but I'm actually inclined to believe it has more force as a justification for a belief that seems absurd than for one which is plausible.

And now that I think of it, I wonder whether Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit was a sendup of Conan Doyle.
posted by jamjam at 12:43 AM on May 19 [4 favorites]

I think it was. It was that silk brocade dressing gown thingie that gave it away.
posted by hugbucket at 2:53 AM on May 19 [2 favorites]

Sys Rq: some fields have more science than others. But as long as you follow the scientific method you are doing science no matter the topic.
posted by Easy problem of consciousness at 3:53 AM on May 19

except in the field of design, where the research methods in themselves exist for design drivers in a manner that runs counter to the tightly forecasted hypothesis to be validated by the scientific method. its an open ended field of enquiry, especially at the early exploratory stage, and that's usually the case for design planning, that is, the figuring out of what market you're targeting; where; and with what, at how much.
posted by hugbucket at 4:15 AM on May 19

PLoS ONE claims to never reject because results are not interesting enough, they only review for scientific accuracy, not perceived impact or importance.

And yes, this is generally a force for good in science and scholarship. There are no real material costs to publication and distribution any more, so there’s not much need for the popularity contest approach to selection. The stuff that isn’t useful just wont get used much, but that’s totally fine.
posted by SaltySalticid at 5:00 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]

Maybe this is just my lawyer training coming out but I imagine that there will be few more satisfying citations than to "The Series of Unsurprising Results in Economics."
posted by Navelgazer at 5:36 AM on May 19 [3 favorites]

As a tech driven world, we want all scientists to be exciting(!) and novel(!) and scientific findings to be revolutionary (!) but that undoes doing the checking and rechecking required for good, reliable scientific inquiry and progress.

Reproducibility is key to doing good science and it's super boring and still required if we want to avoid engaging with science as if we were a cargo cult.
posted by kalessin at 6:10 AM on May 19 [2 favorites]

For me, this is inspiring. I just spent a couple of years investigating something that could have been really important if it had worked, but it didn't. Now I'd like to publish it to stop people from following that path. Maybe my methodology was wrong; maybe my timing was off- it's important that people know it was done. Plus, it would encourage me to continue to test stuff that isn't sure-fire. In my agency, you have to publish two manuscripts a year, and there's a temptation play it safe. That makes all journals "Series of Unsurprising Results".
posted by acrasis at 7:39 AM on May 19 [14 favorites]

I'm reminded of The Journal of Articles in Support of the Null Hypothesis, which has been doing the same thing for psychology since 2002.
posted by offog at 9:06 AM on May 19 [5 favorites]

Dear Gods when does the Journal of Fully Repeatable Pharmacological Experiments become a thing?

Needs a catchier acronym
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:25 AM on May 19

Question is, will "publish or perish" academics feel like working on something that will probably only get in one of these "non-exciting" journals.

Or is that not a thing? I feel like there's probably necessary work going undone because everyone wants to work on something else that's going to get published in a journal.
posted by ctmf at 9:37 AM on May 19

The idea is not that anyone will be planning to get their work into one of these journals — but that if someone plans more exciting work and it fails, submitting to one of these journals will get that failure into the public record.

Making failures public saves other researchers from wasting their time, and means that people reading the literature get a fair picture of things. Otherwise you can get a situation where an experiment's been tried ten times, and has failed nine, but only the one successful version made it into print, so everyone thinks "Great! This has been confirmed to work!"
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:43 AM on May 19 [8 favorites]

(There are also situations where Everyone Knows That X, but nobody has actually checked whether X. In that case, testing whether X is important. But most journals will be reluctant to publish a confirmation of X, since it's Something That Everyone Knows. So researchers who suspect that X is indeed true will be reluctant to do the work to test it.

Having a boring results journal means that testing whether X is guaranteed to be worth your while. If you surprise everyone by showing it's wrong you get a huge earthshaking publication out of it. If you confirm it's right you can at least put that confirmation in the Journal of WTF Dude We Already Knew That, and you'll start getting citations from people whose research has depended on X all along.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:48 AM on May 19 [12 favorites]

There are at least two Journal of Negative Results in the life sciences- one for biomedicine and one for evolution/ecology.
posted by SaltySalticid at 10:17 AM on May 19 [1 favorite]

This sounds great.

I'm curious if it's just a stunt designed to bring attention to the topic, or if it's intended to be a genuine, ongoing journal. There are a lot of names on the editorial board and spot checks show many mid-career and senior people, which suggests the latter, but I don't know enough about the field to understand whether this is likely to be taken seriously. (It's still worth doing even if not. But, I hope it is )
posted by eotvos at 11:02 AM on May 19

Some econ journals are now accepting papers based on a registered pre-analysis plan, which is another way to tackle publication bias.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:14 AM on May 19 [3 favorites]

I love it. It’s a really good idea to publish this stuff.
posted by Secretariat at 7:46 AM on May 21

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