I’m seeing at least two issues in this thread that I would like to highlight.
The first is that many historians and historical social scientists, including purely narrative or “qualitative” scholars, already observe an ethic of transparency and replicability in their work. By following the citations from footnotes to exact archival locations, it is possible in many, many cases to find the exact document or material object that a scholar was interpreting and analyzing. This is a point that has been missing in much of the debate. Yes, replication of historical work is costly, and yes that process could be improved, but it is frequently done and historical social scientists were, in many respects, well ahead of their peers in this endeavor. I say this as a card-carrying political scientist whose work includes a heavy dose of quantitative and rather technical work.
The second is that [the] point about the costs of digitization are more generalizable. We should always be thinking about who bears the costs of our research policies, and I fear that a too-stringent policy on replication will place the burdens upon younger scholars whose work is often conducted in farflung archives where less material has been digitized. The worry I’ve heard in some circles is that these policies will eventually lead to more and more work being done in a laboratory environment, where the laboratories are housed at wealthier institutions that can foot or subsidize the bill of replication costs. I doubt that process is all-converging and teleological, but I do fear that it will overly standardize the research process.
I think a flexible transparency and replication policy is a good idea. But I worry about a policy that imposes its greatest proportional costs upon younger scholars who are most in need of being able to take risks, which is to say, not those of us who already have tenure and who sit on editorial boards.
Dan Carpenter (Harvard University)