Over the past decade, psychology has undergone a credibility revolution (Angrist & Pischke, 2010) that stimulated development of open science practices for making research more transparent, verifiable, and accessible (see Vazire, 2018, for a review). As a result, psychology has become a strong disciplinary leader in open science; yet much more work remains to be done so that the psychological research community can be more fully informed and engaged. Although open science involves a wide range of activities, the focus of this article is on preregistration.
Preregistration is when a researcher specifies, and submits to a repository, all the important details related to research design and statistical analysis prior to beginning research. Although a preregistration can vary in its level of detail, it resembles the sort of proposals that many submitted in graduate school to your master’s thesis or dissertation committees, prior to conducting research.
And like a proposal, the benefits of preregistration include allowing the researcher to plan more comprehensively at the beginning of a research project; to get feedback before investing the time and resources required to conduct the research; and to document which hypotheses were specified a priori versus which were more exploratory in nature.
This last point is worth emphasizing: Preregistration helps everyone — including the researchers themselves — appreciate the distinction between the research as originally planned and how those plans changed. It is okay, and even natural, for preregistered plans to change as a function of the circumstances or additional feedback. It is also okay, and even encouraged, for researchers to engage in follow-up exploratory analyses. The point is to communicate clearly these distinctions as part of the research process.
As an international effort toward increasing psychology’s commitment to creating a stronger culture and practice of preregistration, a multi-society Preregistration Task Force* was formed, following the 2018 meeting of the German Psychological Society in Frankfurt, Germany. The Task Force is composed of members from the American Psychological Association, British Psychology Society, German Psychological Society, Leibniz Institute for Psychology, and Center for Open Science.
Overall, the Preregistration Task Force had the following goals:
- promoting a strong culture of transparency through recommending the adoption of preregistration in psychology;
- creating a template for preregistration with enough detail that it could serve as a stage 1 manuscript (such as for Registered Reports);
- providing a flexible level of preregistration detail with a template that can be adapted for many uses;
- providing resources for societies and editors regarding how to use preregistration for scholarly journals.
Thus, the task force created a detailed preregistration template that benefited from the APA JARS Quantitative Research guidelines, as well as our comprehensive review of many other preregistration templates. The template itself can be accessed permanently via this preregistration site of the Leibniz Institute for Psychology (ZPID).
Notably, the template not only captures many of the details of research planning; it also serves an educational function for communicating best practices, such as fully documenting participant demographics (e.g., gender, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status), considering options for data sharing, specifying not only hypotheses but also exploratory research questions, and detailing how a researcher will handle missing data.
This quantitative research template was developed through an iterative process and received feedback from members belonging to the societies on the task force, as well as members from other psychological societies around the world, such as Brazilian Society of Psychology, Japanese Psychological Association, and Austrian Psychological Society.
The template was launched with a webinar on October 27, 2020, featuring two keynote speakers: Simine Vazire of University of Melbourne, and E. J. Wagenmakers of University of Amsterdam. The webinar was recorded and can be accessed here for more information.
Angrist, J. D., & Pischke, J.-S. (2010). The credibility revolution in empirical economics: How better research design is taking the con out of econometrics. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 24, 3-30. doi.org/10.1257/jep.24.2.3
Vazire, S. (2018). Implications of the credibility revolution for productivity, creativity, and progress. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 13, 411-417. doi.org/10.1177/1745691617751884
*Preregistration Task Force members:
American Psychological Association (APA)
- Fred Oswald - Open Science and Methodology Committee Member
- Rose Sokol-Chang - Publisher, APA Journals and Books
- Amanda Clinton - Director, APA International Affairs
British Psychological Society (BPS)
- Daryl O'Connor - Chair of the BPS Research Board
- Lisa Coulthard - Head of Research and Impact
German Psychological Society (DGPs)
- Christian Fiebach - Secretary and Open Science Committee Member
Leibniz Institute for Psychology (ZPID)
- Michael Bosnjak - Director
- Stefanie Mueller - Head of study planning, data collection, and data analysis services
- Camila Azúa - Research Assistant
Center for Open Science (COS)
- David Mellor - Director of Policy Initiatives