European meeting (& organisation?) on open & replicable psychological science

We’re some people interested in discussing whether we should organise a meeting in Europe for open and replicable psychological science, and possibly also an organisation that can host regular meetings in Europe.

In North America we have Society for the Improvement of Psychological Science (SIPS). In Australia we’ve had two groups organising conferences with 100+ attendees: Australian Interdisciplinary Meta-Research and Open Science (AIMOS) and UQ Open Science; unlike SIPS, however, none of them are member organisations.

Recent public discussions (e.g. a blog post, threads on Twitter such as this & this, as well as an ongoing forum thread) have raised the question whether it might be meaningful to start something up in Europe. Two main ideas have been raised so far:

  1. Organise a conference, similar to the SIPS conference, in Europe. Such a conference could be a one-off event, or a regular event.

  2. Start up a member organisation, similar to SIPS, in Europe. Such an organisation could have an official collaboration with a journal (similar to Collabra: Psychology and SIPS), host conferences, function as an umbrella organisation for local openness and meta-psychological communities, etc.

More on each suggestion below.

PROPOSAL 1: ORGANISING A CONFERENCE

This idea obviously requires less effort and resources than the second proposal, since the second proposal ultimately will include conference hosting as well. Brainstorms so far have included the following thoughts:

  • Location: Croatia? In Croatia we have @Ljerka_Ostojic and her cognition and metascience lab CIABS.
  • Time: European summer 2020? The SIPS conference will take place in Canada in 2020, but might be back in Europe in 2021. It might therefore be a good idea to host at least something small this summer.
  • Type of conference: a traditional conference (small or big), an unconference (like SIPS), a barcamp, some sort of retreat, workshop(s), other?
  • Focus of the conference: psychology, particular parts of psychology, social science, or just open & meta-science in general?

I’ll ping Gjalt-Jorn Peters and Chuan-Peng Hu (not yet on the forum I think), who both expressed interest in discussing the conference proposal further.

PROPOSAL 2: STARTING UP A MEMBER ORGANISATION

Brainstorms so far have included the following thoughts:

  • We want an organisation with high tolerance for diverse opinions (leftists as well as conservatives should feel welcome) and language (also e.g. academics with a working class background and others who might occasionally use foul language should feel welcome).
  • When necessary, we want the organisation to primarily engage in constructive conflict resolution rather than punishment and exclusion.

I’m pinging @rickcarlsson here, who might want to share his thoughts on the member organisation.


Please do join the discussions in this thread! You don’t need to sign up to do anything just for sharing your ideas and thoughts.

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Great initiative! I agree so far, but I have a further wishlist for how I’d like a membership organization to look like.

Not everything in it is developed ideas, though. Some ideas might be useless. I’m not an expert on this and everyone should feel free to point out if I’m incredibly naive or uninformed. But please, try not assuming malicious intent if I’m way off somewhere. Instead, see it as a start of discussion and a vision.

  1. Europe is only a matter of it being geographically practical. Everyone should feel welcome.

  2. The organization should not speak with one voice but be a multitude of possibly conflicting ideas and initiatives. The shared core ideas should be kept to a minimum.

  3. All members should be able to start activities and pitch in without asking for permission. Noone should “own” a topic.

  4. Flat organization. Leadership roles should be about the execution of certain tasks.

  5. Unchecked intolerance will inevitably lead to intolerant people oppressing others, thus reducing tolerance. Intolerant behavior thus cannot be tolerated. Denying others the right to participate as equals because of race, gender, etc., or denying someone their right to express their opinions and cultural uniqueness, are examples of intolerance.

  6. I wish we had a world without predators, but that’s not true. Protection from harassment at conferences is important. It’s often very difficult to actually prove it. Instead of endless investigations and punishment (or often lack thereof), a default policy could be that people who feel harassed can simply ask that their harasser stop interacting with them and that person should have to comply. Think of it like a mute button on Twitter. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. There’s sure to be some false positives, but a simple “X wants you to stay away from them” is swift, easy to follow up and hopefully effective. There might be some logistics problems in ensuring that it works when people are at the same conference. Asking “what does it take for you to feel safe, other than banning this individual from the organization and all meetings” could be a guiding principle. It does not matter if harassment cannot be proven; if someone is afraid they are afraid. If someone feels humiliated, that’s how they feel.

  7. Serious forms of harassment (e.g., sexual) should be dealt with by the law, and not some internal organization police.

  8. I agree that conflict resolution and dialogue is much better than banning people. But people who refuse to cooperate can be suspended until they agree to do so. People who have recently been legally convicted of harassment can safely be excluded. However, it’s not reasonable to ban for life. There has to be some proportionality to this.

  9. Harassment should be about protecting safety and dignity. That someone is annoying or keep criticizing your work isn’t harassment.

  10. The organization should not investigate what people do in their private life. It’s impossible to keep track of that. That someone seems like a total asshole in their private life isn’t a good basis for regulating them in an organization.

  11. Regarding 5 - 10, it’s important not to write an amateurish code of conduct without expert legal help. I don’t pretend to have a good idea on how to formulate things. But a code of conduct that’s unclear in terms of how to apply it is more than useless.

  12. Membership fees should be kept to a minimum. Ideally zero, with cost-based principles on activities.

  13. Direct democracy (everyone votes) rather than representative elections, whenever possible.

I’ll try to end this on a cheery note that the aim is to keep it fun and simple. Nothing kills the fun in a grassroots movement quicker than a committee or a board meeting :wink:

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Thanks Rebecca for that suggestion and taking it further from discussions and ideation processes elsewhere. As a trained biologist and longtime member of IGDORE I just wonder if IGDORE itself could be that organizing institution - implement policies and structures as suggested by Patrick (thanks also for that, sounds all very reasonable) and be interdisciplinary in its scope with a large wing (or topic of the first conference) on Psychology - inviting also reseafchers from other disciplines to learn from the current discussions of Open Science in Psychology and cater for cross-cutting learnings and taking the general Open Science movement back to the practitioners decision making. Would that be feasible?

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I’m not sure how your (obvious and good) point #5 can be enforced in the age of self-identification. If the presence of person X is making me feel so uncomfortable (or at least, if that’s what I claim) because I, in my sole judgement, believe that they once attacked (e.g., on Twitter) some group that I consider to be part of my identity, then who is to decide whether my belief is reasonable and/or worth excluding someone else to defend it? Not allowing people to wear KKK uniforms to the conference dinner is a fairly easy decision, but these things typically exist on a continuum and I wouldn’t like to be the person to have to say “Oh FFS, don’t be such a wet blanket” to someone who claims that the presence of X is, for example, a severe trigger for their anxiety disorder. Of course, one could simply have a short and (by definition) exhaustive list of unacceptable behaviours, with everything else being allowed, but I can see this being a target (“Free Science Org explicitly does not rule out , they must be a bunch of Trump supporters, or worse”).

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@sTeamTraen I think most of those concerns goes under #6 which is basically a “no questions asked” policy. Maybe it will be misused… Might be worth a try?

The general action against intolerant behavior should be for more agreed upon violations of other’s rights. Still hard though…

Yes, I agree with Nick that point 5 in @rickcarlsson’s list is indeed tricky.

[Highlight in bold by me]

I think we’re on thin ice as soon as we start not tolerating non-criminal behaviors because then it will be about ideology, life philosophy, politics, beliefs.

I personally completely agree with this, to me it is basic common sense. However, if writing it out explicitly in a CoC, like e.g. SIPS has done, then I worry there will be lots of cases where some people don’t think that the CoC is followed/implemented. E.g. some will consider it a breach of the CoC if someone voices concerns or is even outright against positive discrimination / affirmative actions. Thus, we will quickly either have to go the same way as e.g. SIPS (meaning we need to start doing investigations and conclude on verdicts) or we will continuously be critised for claiming to be against discrimination while not acting upon it. I would personally prefer to be against discrimination without writing it out explicitly. @sTeamTraen is probably right in the following:

But as I see it, it doesn’t matter if we would have more left wing members than SIPS: there will definitely be people accusing us of being right wing anyway just because of the mere fact that we would prioritise free speech over protecting people from feeling hurt (by non-criminal behaviors).

David Suissa wrote this recently (December, 18, 2019) in the Jewish Journal:

“When I see racist, vile speech that disgusts me, I remind myself it’s the price I have to pay for the freedom to speak my piece. I remind myself that “the remedy for bad speech is more speech, not censorship.””

In line with the David Suissa quote above, this statement makes it clear that it is not possible to practice tolerance while at the same time not allowing intolerance. It would be hypocrisy.

David Suissa continues:

“Today, however, many activists feel the remedy is less speech, so they’ll bully those whose ideas they can’t stand. That’s when the poisonous trend of self-censorship kicks in. People silence themselves because it’s simply not worth the risk of consequences.”

From my perspective, this is exactly what is happening in SIPS and possibly also in the open psychological science movement in general at the moment: people engage in self-censorship. And this is not good for academic discourse: academics need to feel free to express their honest opinions, regardless of funding agencies, institutions, leaders, colleagues, students.

In addition, I think it’s important to create a real alternative to SIPS. Social scientists (and others) who prioritise protection from behaviors they find to be intolerant already have several great alternatives of member organisations, such as SIPS and Open Science Community (as defined by the Utrecht branch). In contrast, social scientists (and others) who prioritise free speech do not yet have any member organisation to join (as far as I know). I would therefore suggest creating an organisation that explicitly encourages free speech. Once that is done, people might show up who want to create an organisation that tries a mix of both (this might be easier to do in the future, once one have been able to observe both SIPS and the European organisation for a while and identify their weaknesses).

Thanks for your suggestions, @jo.havemann!

A psychological society could definitely become independently affiliated with IGDORE should they want to, just like the two laboratories (TTHSC & CIABS) and the coworking space that are currently affiliated with IGDORE. All three organisations/units can choose to leave IGDORE at any time, and IGDORE can also choose to exclude them at any time. Any type of existing or future organisation can choose to join IGDORE in the same way.

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I agree it is tricky. Personally I think the Swedish law of free speech that prohibits hate speech is a great example. Because laws aren’t identical over the world coc needs to be explicit.

The problem with allowing intolerant behavior is that it can be used to shut down the free speech of others.

That’s really the point. Freedom as long as you don’t interfere with other people’s rights to express themselves.

The goal is always free speech. But it includes equal opportunity to excercise that free speech.

Anyway this isn’t my idea — it’s Popper :slight_smile:

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The activism bullying is a great example of intolerant behavior that can’t be tolerate. Silencing other isn’t OK. If intolerant behavior goes under free speech it’s free pass to bully people into silence which is hurting free speech.

FWIW I do not think that (at this stage, anyway) it would be a good idea to start “Free Open Science™” or whatever it would be called. As Rebecca points out above, there will be people who will portray it as “MAGA Open Science” or use it to prove that the “Bropen” description was correct. There aren’t many people trying to drive the “all social justice, all the time” agenda even within SIPS, and for the moment there aren’t many people who think it’s a big problem. If you go to the average psychology grad student and try to explain to them why they should go to FOScon versus SIPS, they may find the discussions rather arcane. I find it hard to portray SIPS as an unreasonable organisation even though I disagree with some aspects of their CoC. I find their position arguable rather than intolerable.

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I agree 100 % with Nick here…

But I think there’s value in an European organization. I also think it’s good to learn from SIPS and consider what to imitate and what to do different. I don’t envision this as a competitor, but rather as a complement. I think it’s problematic if there’s only one organization. Plurality is good.

Consider the Facebook groups Psych Methods (that I’ve admined for quite some time) which is different from Psychmap — I think it’s good both groups exist. They tend to spawn different discussions and attract different people. Psych methods is much better at attracting non western members for example, but it’s more male dominated than psychmap. (Well actually it’s Uli-dominated). It’s a bar with a somewhat crazy (hah sorry Uli) bartender vs. a cozy coffee shop (not the Dutch kind).

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Completely agree. And perhaps could a CoC similar to this one sentence work:

Giving it a try now with some concrete examples:

  • Arguing against positive discrimination :white_check_mark:
  • Writing or saying “fucking idiot” about someone :white_check_mark:
  • Writing or saying “fucking racist” about someone :white_check_mark:
  • Writing or saying “fucking retard” about someone :white_check_mark:
  • Writing or saying “fucking crackpot” about a former cocaine addict :white_check_mark:
  • Ignoring someone :white_check_mark:
  • Looking at someone in a weird way :white_check_mark:
  • Interrupting a speech or seminar to the extent that it needs to be discontinued :negative_squared_cross_mark:
  • Verbal, written, or physical threats aiming at silencing an opponent :negative_squared_cross_mark:
  • Verbal, written, or physical threats aiming at making an opponent change opinion or expression :negative_squared_cross_mark:
  • Asking people to wear particular clothes / have a particular appearance :white_check_mark:
  • Requiring particular clothes / appearance to allow attendance :negative_squared_cross_mark: (This is an interesting item since it may interfere with dress codes and e.g. masquerades.)
  • Calling someone ugly :white_check_mark:
  • Asking someone to change their appearance :white_check_mark:
  • Requiring someone to change their appearance :negative_squared_cross_mark:

These above examples make me think it could work. Anyone got some more tricky examples that can prove me wrong?

I don’t think we really know that. What I hear publicly, from people who tell me in private that they disagree with a CoC such as the one used by SIPS and OpenCon, is silence.

The SIPS Executive Board is managing SIPS in the way they think is the best way forward. That is exactly the way to lead an organisation. I think it’s good leadership to pull an organisation in a direction one believes in; in contrast, aiming to not make anyone upset will quickly make the organisation grey and uninteresting. In this particular case, they’re pulling in a direction I personally disagree with and I therefore chose to leave. This is perfectly in line with how organisations should work. No one has done anything wrong, we’re just having different opinions.

I completely agree with this.