FAQs: Why delay implementation of the DA-RT statement?

Why delay now, after five years of the DA-RT initiative?

The reason is that until October 2014, the principle of transparency in research (under the APSA Ethics guidelines from 2012) was a matter of professional ethics. It was up to scholars themselves to figure out how best to apply this important principle in their own work.

The statement (“JETS”) by some leading journal editors in October 2014 shifted this considerably — from a regime of self-enforcement by individual scholars as an ethical matter to a set of requirements that these editors took responsibility for policing.  That is a very different kind of regime.

The editors will begin implementing the statement in a few months (January 15, 2016).  The first opportunity to discuss this consequential change collectively was the APSA meeting in 2015.  Many challenging issues about how the principle of transparency should best be implemented in the journals to reflect the many research traditions in political science have not been adequately discussed by the relevant APSA sections and its governance structures.

The more than 750 scholars (as of Sunday Nov 8 at 5 p.m. ET) who signed the petition agree with our request for a delay.

To whom is the petition addressed? As explained in the cover letter, we will send it with the names of all those who sign by November 11 to those editors who signed the DA-RT statement. We will afterward occasionally send them an update: the petition with all signatures including those added after November 11, links to particularly informative essays, and so on.

What good is achieved by a delay? What next? An excellent proposal for a deliberative process is being developed by Tim Büthe and Alan Jacobs at the request of the Qualitative and Multi-Method Research section. Delaying implementation of the DA-RT statement gives scholars time for further reflection on an important set of principles.

Do those who signed the petition oppose greater transparency in political science?

Absolutely not. The petition merely calls for further deliberation as some troubling issues remain unresolved. To avoid a situation where the editors of some journals impose a particular interpretation of the principle of transparency on authors, the discipline should take a close look over the coming months, including in regional APSA meetings and in many venues – workshops, panel discussions, and section meetings – at the next APSA convention.

An excellent start on a draft of “Guidelines for Data Access and Research Transparency for Qualitative Research in Political Science” was made in August 2013 by Colin Elman, who received further suggestions for changes in that draft in the summer of 2015. In addition to the QMMR process, these draft guidelines could provide one basis for the discussion. Without a delay to clarify the issues, we are asking the journal editors to both implement and police policies whose implications are simply not clear.

Does the petition deepen the divide between quantitative and qualitative analysis? We think it should not do so. Indeed, some primarily quantitative scholars have signed the petition. How to interpret and apply the principle of transparency in publishing some types of research – that which draws on deeply immersive field research or where the dangers to human subjects are acute — does pose particular hurdles, however. The excellent Qualitative and Multi-Methods Research newsletter addresses some of these issues.

How can I contribute to making possible deeper consideration of the principles of transparency in our profession?

First, discuss the issue with your colleagues – we all need to be better informed about the principles of transparency, the interpretation of those principles by the editors who signed the DA-RT statement, and its implications for distinct research communities.

Second, if you agree that the profession should deliberate more on these issues, sign the petition if you haven’t yet.

Third, in any case please circulate it to others – the more discussion the better, whether or not you signed.

Fourth, contribute an essay to this website!