Guest author: Oliver Fink, University of Basel

I wrote already before about the power of science for our society and especially social science in intractable conflict (“Why Research”) and want to underline the importance of this topic again.

Even more so, the combination of Social Psychology and Political Science that we are aiming at in our project, has been praised by famous Nature Magazine (“Wars without End”, 2015) as well as the Scientific American Mind in their Special Edition on Terrorism (“Extinguishing the Threat”, 2016). Plus, I have the privilege to be affiliated with the Research Group that is positively mentioned in both articles.

This gain of visibility and relevance includes a power – for example through better funding opportunities – as well as a threat for Social Psychology, as the increased relevance will eventually lead to a bigger scrutiny regarding results.

We can see this already now in the ongoing discussion about the “replicability crisis” in social psychology, which did not only lead to publication retractions of current high-profile Psychologists but is even including famous “classic” research like Zimbardo’s Prison Experiment or Milgram’s Punishment Study. A recent article (Nature Human Behaviour, 2018) found that almost half of 21 selected psychological experiments could not be reproduced by other independent research groups.

This does not mean the results are necessarily wrong but rather less impressive than initially assumed. Neither is the issue only relevant for psychology, also other fields e.g. Biology struggle with similar challenges. Probably this is less about bad science but about rushed science or inflated results. Those who have been working in academia will be familiar with the very competitive career conditions and the pressure to publish exciting findings in high impact journals.

In this sense, I’m thankful that I don’t pursue a high-profile academic career but rather live my everyday research life applied in our own intractable conflict setting and I’m equally thankful for the patient partnership of the “WeContribute Foundation”.

As Oxford Researcher Brian Earp puts it in his article on the replication crisis “In other words, it’s complicated. And it often comes down to the details.” In this sense, let’s make our backs round and get back to diligent work of improving meaningful details in Intractable Conflict. And if we are lucky, as a result, there are exciting findings around the corner…