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Principles for Quality Research and Quality Evidence

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2 Principles for Quality Research and Quality Evidence
Portraits of a Scholar, from the 16th Century…. Artist: JKoshi’s photostream, flickr ...to today Artist: Domenico Feti Artist: Ferdinand Bol Artist: Rembrandt Harmenszoon Van Rijn Principles for Quality Research and Quality Evidence Ted Kreifels, Ph.D.

3 Overview Importance of good research Traits of quality research
Standards and methods used to assess quality research and quality evidence BAD research practices Common causes of bias in data Methodological “potholes” How to trust information Errors in Research

4 Introduction Every businessman, scientist, engineer, technician, clinician, and manufacturer investigates, develops, or reveals useful knowledge (research) We each play important roles: Scientists, engineers, and analysts (create information) Librarians (manage information) Decision-makers (apply information) Jurists (judge information) Journalists (disseminate information) Other examples?

5 based on the information and evidence we have available
Our Motivation We (typically) have a sincere desire and an interest in determining what is TRUE based on the information and evidence we have available

6 Motivation (continued)
Good research empowers us to reach our own conclusions Bad (distorted) research Starts with a conclusion Presents only facts, usually taken out of context, that supports the author’s initial conclusion Bad research should not to be confused with propaganda Propaganda is information that is intended to persuade and is sometimes misrepresented as objective research Bad research should not be confused with “bull****” Bull**** is a deliberate, manipulative misrepresentation and steers one away from the truth Bad research causes real harm and deserves strong censure

7 Research versus Evidence
Quality Research and Quality Evidence are related, but separate topics Quality Research pertains to the scientific process Quality Evidence is the sum collection of research data, and pertains to the judgment regarding the strength and confidence one has in the findings emanating from the scientific process

8 Research produces Evidence
Quality research is a precursor to quality evidence Following factors influence the type and quality of evidence produced Design Questions Methods Coherence and consistency of findings

9 Quality Matters! If scientific research lacks credibility, it’s difficult to make confident, concrete assertions or predictions Confidence is obtained by the robustness of the research and the analysis done to synthesize results

10 Traits of Quality Research
Exhibits these Traits Credibility Objectivity, internal validity Transferability External validity Dependability Construct validity, reliability Confirm-ability Objectivity, Honest/Thorough reporting

11 Traits of Quality Research (continued)
Have I introduced any bias in the manner I collect or think about my data? Can changes in the outcome be attributed to alternative explanations that were not explored in the study? Do findings apply to participants/specimens whose place, times, and circumstances differ from those of other study participants/specimens? Does the research adequately measure key concepts? Have we collected the data in a consistent manner? “…the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth…?” Objectivity Internal Validity External Validity Construct Validity Reliability Honest and Thorough Reporting

12 Standards Used to Assess Quality of Scientifically-Based Research
Pose a significant, important, well-defined question that can be investigated empirically and that contributes to the knowledge base Offer a description of the context and existing information about an issue Apply methods that best addresses the question of interest Test questions that are linked to relevant theory and considers various perspectives

13 Standards Used to Assess Quality of Scientifically-Based Research (continued)
Ensure an independent, balanced, and objective approach to the research with clear inferential reasoning supported by a complete coverage of relevant literature Use appropriate and reliable conceptualization and measurement of variables Provide sufficient description of the samples, and any comparison groups Ensure the study design, methods, and procedures are transparent and provides the necessary information to reproduce or replicate the study

14 Standards Used to Assess Quality of Scientifically-Based Research (continued)
Present evidence, with data and analysis in a format that others can reproduce or replicate Use adequate references, including original sources, alternative perspectives, and criticism Adhere to quality standards for reporting (i.e., clear, cogent, complete) Submit research to a peer-review process

15 Standards Used to Assess Quality of Scientifically-Based Research (continued)
Evaluate alternative explanations for any findings, discusses critical assumptions, contrary findings, and alternative interpretations Assess the possible impact of systematic bias Use Caution to reach conclusions and implications The more one aligns to these standards, the higher the quality Following only a few of these principles is insufficient to assert quality

16 Publishing Publishing is an important benchmark, but the quality of research should not be judged solely by whether (or not) it is published in leading journals Using biblio-metric analysis (citing by other authors) as a measure of quality is also faulty All research that is published in journals or cited by others is NOT necessarily accurate, reliable, valid, free of bias, non fraudulent Biblio-metric analysis is primarily a measure of quantity and can be artificially influenced by journals with high acceptance rates

17 Assessing Quality Research
In industry, one of the most respected means of assessing quality is to establish consensus among subject matter experts and systematic review Same is true in academia Strategies for reaching consensus in academia include position statements, conferences, the peer review process, and systematic review What other differences (or similarities) exist between industry and academia?

18 Assessing Quality Research (continued)
Another form of reaching consensus is by using standardized reporting techniques Report essential information regarding samples, statistics, randomization, and analysis Publish detailed technical standards in relevant professional societies What other techniques help us reach consensus?

19 Assessing Quality Research (continued)
Sandia National Laboratories exhibits traits of basic research, advanced development, industrial, and manufacturing We use a “layered defense” or layered strategy for defect prevention Bottoms-Up meets Top-Down in the middle (via Reviews, Gates, etc.) Triple-A Teamwork: Assurance, Acceptance, Assessment We do our best work when we work together to establish consensus during each step to achieve quality

20 Bad Research Practices
Defining issues in ideological terms i.e. Using exaggerated or extreme perspectives to characterize a debate Ignoring/suppressing alternative perspectives or contrary evidence Insulting/ridiculing others with differing views Totally unacceptable …reflects poorly on oneself, one’s organization

21 Bad Research Practices (continued)
Designing research questions to reach particular conclusions Using faulty logic to reach conclusions Using biased data and analysis methods Ignoring limitations of analysis and exaggerating implications of results

22 Bad Research Practices (continued)
Using unqualified researchers not familiar with specialized issues Not presenting details of key data and analysis for review by others Citing special interest groups or popular media, rather than peer-viewed professional and academic organizations

23 Bad Research Practices (continued)
And, the MOST COMMON mistake: Assuming association (events that occur together)… Proves causation (one event causes another) Have I missed anything?

24 Example of a Methodological Pothole Reference Units
OBSERVATIONS Traffic fatality trends over four decades When measured per capita they show little decline When measured per vehicle-mile, fatality rates declined significantly Conclusion A: As measured per capita, various safety efforts have FAILED Conclusion B: Conditions require more people to drive further, yet vehicle handling and safety have improved so people feel safer while increasing risk (driving faster, leaving less distance between cars, etc.)—various safety strategies (e.g. better roads, vehicles, laws) have PASSED No single right or wrong reference unit—different reference units reflect different perspectives and may affect analytical results

25 EXERCISE Same Reference Units, Different Perspectives
OBSERVATIONS Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities have decreased over 5 years throughout the United States Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities have sharply increased in Kansas Both are measured per vehicle-mile What are your CONCLUSIONS? What further QUESTIONS would you ask? Different quality researchers reflect different perspectives, knowledge, and experience

26 8 (of 60) Methodological Potholes
Problem Remedy/Advice Range restriction effect Failure to vary independent variables over sufficient range, so effects look small. Decide what range of a variable or what effect size is of interest. Run a pilot study. Ceiling effect When a task is so easy that the experimental manipulation shows little/no effect. Make the task more difficult. Run a pilot study. Floor effect When a task is so difficult that experimental manipulation shows little/no effect. Make the task easier. Run a pilot study. Sampling bias Any confound that causes the sample to be unrepresentative of the pertinent population. Use random sampling. If sub-groups are identifiable use a stratified random sample. Avoid “convenience” or haphazard sampling. History effect Any change between a pretest measure and posttest measure not attributable to the experimental factors. Isolate subjects from external information. Use post-experiment debriefing to identify possible confounds. Reactivity problem When the act of measuring something changes the measurement itself. Use clandestine measurement methods. Order effect In a repeated measures, the effect that the order of introducing treatment has on the dependent variable. Randomize or counter-balance treatment order. Use between-subjects design. Hypocrisy Holding others to a higher methodological standard than oneself. Hold yourself to higher standards than others. Apply self-criticism. Follow your own advice. * Sixty Methodological Potholes, David Huron, Ohio State University, 2000

27 CARS How To Trust Information—Especially from Media and the Internet
Checklist for Information Quality Description Goal Credible trustworthy source, author’s credentials, evidence of quality control, known or respected authority, organizational support A known, respected authority, a source of trusted evidence Accurate up to date, factual, detailed, exact, comprehensive, audience and purpose reflect intentions of completeness A source that is correct today (not yesterday), a source that gives the whole truth Reasonable fair, balanced, objective, reasoned, no conflict of interest, absence of fallacies or slanted tone A source that engages the subject thoughtfully and reasonably, concerned with the truth Supported listed sources, contact information, available corroboration, claims supported, documentation supplied Provides compelling evidence for the claims made, a source you can triangulate (i.e. find at least two other sources that support it) * Evaluating Internet Research Sources, Robert Harris, November 2010

28 CARS Checklist Credible Reasonable Accurate Supported
Trustworthy source Quality evidence Quality control Known, respected authority Credentials Organizational support Accurate Current Factual Detailed Exact Comprehensive Whole truth Reasonable Fair and balanced Objective Reasoned and thoughtful No conflict of interest No fallacies or slanted tone Seeks the truth Supported Listed sources Contact information Corroboration available Claims supported w/evidence Documentation supplied Triangulated sources

29 EXERCISE Flour Power Research and Evidence Challenge:
Is a liquid cup and a dry cup the same measure? I used the internet to research this question and draw a conclusion What percentage of internet sources answered: Yes/No?

30 The “Ounce” Background Information
Mass Variant Equivalent (grams) Avoirdupois Troy Apothecary Maria Theresa Spanish 28.75 Dutch metric 100 Chinese metric 50 Unit of MASS (or weight) Abbreviated, oz, from Latin “uncia” Original Roman measure = 1/12 pound Troy ounce (still used for precious metals) = Apothecary ounce = 1/12 lb Several definitions and standards for an “ounce”: Mother Theresa, Spanish, metric United States uses avoirdupois ounce = 1/16 pound Unit of VOLUME Abbreviated, fl oz, fl. oz., or oz. fl. Other, fabric weight Expresses the areal density of a textile fabric in North America, Asia, UK Weight of a given amount of fabric, a square yard, or yard of a given width Volume Variant Equivalent (ml) US 30 Imperial 28

31 Propaganda is sometimes misrepresented as objective research!
On Propaganda Collected from several sources including dictionaries, Wikipedia,and * Garth Jowett and Victoria O'Donnell, Propaganda and Persuasion 4th ed. Sage Publications, p. 7 Propaganda is information, ideas, (or even rumors) and a form of communication intended to persuade and influence Propaganda often presents facts selectively to encourage a particular synthesis and emotional, rather than rational, response “Propaganda is a deliberate and systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist.” * Originally, etymologically, the word “propaganda” is neutral Positive, benign, innocuous examples: Public health recommendations, buying war bonds, reporting crimes to the police, getting out the vote Negative example: Nazi (used to justify Holocaust), etc. Be wary! Propaganda is sometimes misrepresented as objective research!

32 “There are no facts, only interpretations”- Nietzsche
On Bull**** (a real book) by philosopher Harry G. Frankfort, (Princeton Press 2005) Bull**** is a manipulative misrepresentation Bull**** is WORSE THAN A LIE (more dangerous) because it denies the value of truth In contrast, lying is concerned with the truth in a perverse fashion: “A liar wants to lead us away from the truth.” Truth Tellers (researchers) and Liars play opposite sides of the Game Bull****ters take pride in ignoring the rules of the Game altogether People sometimes try to justify their bull**** by citing relativism, a philosophy that suggests that objective truth does not exist “There are no facts, only interpretations”- Nietzsche Any issue can and should be viewed from multiple perspectives…but Anyone who denies the value of truth and objective analysis is really bull****ting!

33 Special Acknowledgement
The following section regarding Errors in Research and the workshop case studies were taken from On Being a Scientist Responsible Conduct in Research, 2nd Edition produced by: - The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) - National Academy of Engineering (NAE) - Institute of Medicine (IOM) Printed by the National Academy Press, Washington D.C., 1995

34 Errors in Research 1st Category
The “Honest Error” Usually caught internally through informal and formal peer review processes Dealt with internally through evaluations and appointments

35 Errors in Research 2nd Category
Ethical transgressions Gross negligence Misallocation of credit Cover-ups of misconduct Reprisals against whistle blowers Malicious allegations Violations of due process Sexual and other forms of harassment Misuse of funds Tampering with experiments, instrumentation, results Violations of government research regulations May be caught internally or externally any number of ways Dealt with by administrative, legal, and professional penalties

36 Misconduct 3rd Category and Most Grave Error in Research
Deception Making up data (fabrication) Changing or misreporting data or results (falsification) Using the ideas or words of another person without giving appropriate credit (plagiarism) Deception strikes “at the heart” of values in good research Deception may cause extreme consequences Undermines progress, personal and institutional credibility Loss of time in related research Squanders public funds Threatens future funding and support Threatens public safety Deception is dealt with using severe, career-ending, penalties

37 The Selection of Data Deborah, a third-year graduate student, and Kathleen, a postdoc, have made a series of measurements on a new experimental semi-conductor material using an expensive neutron source at a national laboratory. When they get back to their own lab and examine the data, they get the following data points. A newly proposed theory predicts results indicated by the curve. Response Beam Intensity During the measurements at the national lab, Deborah and Kathleen observed that there were power fluctuations they could not control or predict. Furthermore, they discussed their work with another group doing similar experiments, and they knew that the other group had gotten results confirming the theoretical prediction and was writing a manuscript describing their results. In writing up their own results for publication, Kathleen suggests dropping the two anomalous data points near the abscissa (the solid squares) from the published graph and from a statistical analysis. She proposes that the existence of the data points be mentioned in the paper as possibly due to power fluctuations and being outside the expected standard deviation calculated from the remaining data points. “These two runs,” she argues to Deborah, “were obviously wrong.” How should the data from the two suspected runs be handled? Should the data be included in tests of statistical significance and why? What other sources of information, in addition to their faculty advisor, can Deborah and Kathleen use to help decide?

38 The Selection of Data Prologue
Deborah and Kathleen’s principal obligation, in writing up their results for publication, is to describe what they have done and give the basis for their actions. They must therefore examine how they can meet this obligation within the context of the experiment they have done. Questions that need to be answered include: If the authors state in the paper that data have been rejected because of problems with the power supply, should the data points still be included in the published chart? Should statistical analyses be done that both include and exclude the questionable data? If conventions within their discipline allow for the use of statistical devices to eliminate outlying data points, how explicit do Deborah and Kathleen need to be in the published paper about the procedures they have followed?

39 A Conflict of Interest John, a third-year graduate student, is participating in a department-wide seminar where students, postdocs, and faculty members discuss work in progress. An assistant professor prefaces her comments by saying that the work she is about to discuss is sponsored by both a federal grant and a biotechnology firm for which she consults. In the course of the talk, John realizes that he has been working on a technique that could make a major contribution to the work being discussed. But his faculty advisor consults for a different, and competing, biotechnology firm. How should john participate in this seminar? What, if anything, should he say to his advisor—and when? What implications does this case raise for the traditional openness and sharing of data, materials, and findings that have characterized modern science?

40 A Conflict of Interest Prologue
Science thrives in an atmosphere of open communication. When communication is limited, progress is limited for everyone. John therefore needs to weight the advantages of keeping quiet—if, in fact there are any—against the damage that accrues to science if he keeps his suggestions to himself. He might also ask himself how keeping quiet might affect his own life in science. Questions: Does John want to appear to his advisor and his peers as someone who less than forthcoming with his ideas? Will he enjoy science as much if purposefully limits communication with others?

41 Summary Why is good research important?
What are the traits of quality research? Can you provide a few examples of standards and methods used to assess quality research and quality evidence? What are examples of bad research? What are a few common causes of bias in data and methodological errors? How does one trust information from the internet? What are the three categories of errors in research?

42 Bibliography Evaluating Research Quality, Guidelines for Scholarship
Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Policy Institute, November 28th, 2010 What are the Standards for Quality Research? Editor’s Focus , Technical Brief Number 9, National Center for Dissemination of Disability Research (NCDDR), 2005 Sixty Methodological Potholes David Huron, Ohio State University, 2000 Evaluating Internet Research Sources Robert Harris, Virtual Salt, November 22nd, 2010 On Being a Scientist, Responsible Conduct in Research, 2nd Ed. Bruce Alberts, President, The National Academy of Sciences (NAS), 2005 Kenneth Shine, President, National Academy of Engineering (NAE), 2005 Robert White, President, Institute of Medicine (IOM), 2005


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