By Garett Howardson, SIOP Blogger
In a recent focal article in The Industrial and Organizational Psychologist: Perspectives on Science and Practice, Kepes and McDaniel (in press) lament that findings in the industrial and organizational (I-O) psychology literature may lack trustworthiness. The authors argue that this lack of trust is a partial bi-product of a peer review system that encourages unscientific behaviors, such as hypothesizing after the results are known (i.e., HARK-ing). The authors ultimately posit the question; are the scientific results of the I/O psychology literature trustworthy? Before I can address this question, however, I think it is important to briefly address the alternative question, “What is science?”
As an aspiring methodologist, my training can be characterized as an existential journey to discover the meaning of science en route to developing better methods of scientific inquiry. Through this journey, I have pieced together a definition of “science” that I have come to like. I define science as, a systematic, iterative, and infinite conversation with Nature to determine the efficacy of our current state of knowledge. I like this definition for a few reasons. First, it places science in the real world (i.e., nature) rather than in an ideological world of theory and philosophy (cf., Einstein, 1934, p. 165). Second, and perhaps most importantly, this definition suggests that science cannot be advanced without applying our knowledge to nature. This occurs through the systematic and iterative processes where we apply our knowledge to nature, observe the end result, amend our current knowledge, apply the updated knowledge to nature, and repeat ad infinitum. This appeals to me because it suggests that practice is the failsafe for science. Consider the following example of the science of flight.