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The robustness and replicability of our science

Thank you for all your many positive comments on my first presidential blog… and thank you, too, for the (many fewer) negative comments. It’s always good to learn from constructive criticism.

I’ll be addressing many issues over the next 51 weeks, inviting comment and seeking the views of members on issues such as psychologists’ engagement with some contentious national policies

One of the issues raised from last week’s blog was the issue of the robustness and replicability of our science. I said; “…our profession and discipline is based on our science, our professional practice and our values….” It is worrying, then, that a recent paper in the journal Science found that only a third of 100 key psychology experiments published in top journals appeared to be robustly replicable.Replication and Reproducibility in Psychologyday

The British Psychological Society’s Research Board is addressing this issue head-on. Under the auspices of the Joint Committee for Psychology in Higher Education which includes, the British Psychological Society, Experimental Psychology Society and the Association of Heads of Psychology Departments, we are hosting a symposium on Replication and Reproducibility in Psychology at the Royal Society in London on May 26th 2016. The aim of the event is to have a positive, upbeat and collegiate debate prompted by the paper in Science (followed by a wine reception sponsored by Wiley). In addition, it’s worth noting that Research Board is working to secure the best outcome for the discipline in the lead up to next iteration of the Research Excellence Framework in 2020.

Psychological science can’t stand still. If there are lessons to be learned, we’ll learn them. Professor Daryl O’Connor, Chair of our Research Board, has said that the replicability project: “… represents an important step forward for psychological science specifically, and science more generally. Other areas of science have encountered problems with reproducibility in the past, for example, clinical medicine and genetics, therefore, psychology is not alone. Publication of this report in Science can propel psychological researchers forward, improve scientific practice and trigger new ways of working”.

I’d also like to let members know of two important events I attended last week. On Thursday morning, members of the BPS, experts by experience and colleagues from the Royal Colleges of Psychiatry and Nursing met under the auspices of Health Education England (although on the initiative of the BPS) to establish ‘formulation’ as a core, cross-professional, element of the Skills for Health ‘Mental Health Core Skills Education and Training Framework’. It is hugely valuable for the discipline and profession to see this core skill formally adopted in this way. The meeting represented a very positive, collegiate, cross-professional discussion.

Continuing in the same vein, on Friday, I attended the launch of the new National Guideline Development Centre led by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, with the BPS as a key partner. It brings together clinical leadership, technical experts, project managers and administrative support to produce guidelines on behalf of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Again, I believe it is hugely valuable for the Society that we are increasingly seen as central to these kinds of developments.