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Hedendaagse methoden in de sociale en gedragswetenschappen zijn onrustbarend mild. Mogelijk bevat de literatuur meer onjuiste dan juiste conclusies. Mede daarom is volgens Jelte Wicherts ‘methodologisch meedogenloos onderzoek’ pas goed onderzoek. Zulk onderzoek is namelijk gebaseerd op methodes die de onderzoekshypothese ondersteunen als deze waar is, en laten geen spaan heel van die hypothese als die onhoudbaar blijkt. ‘De methodologische vinger raakt de zere plekken in het onderzoek, maar kan ook de juiste weg wijzen.’

Het methodologisch niveau van veel onderzoek in de sociale en gedragswetenschappen is te laag en het is mijn ambitie dit niveau te verhogen. Om mijn methodologische punt te verhelderen bespreek ik eerst slecht onderzoek, gevolgd door matig en middelmatig onderzoek, om te eindigen met goed onderzoek. Meedogenloos onderzoek noem ik dat. Dat is onderzoek met methodes die de onderzoekshypothese ondersteunen als deze waar is, maar geen spaan heel laten van de hypothese als deze om wat voor reden dan ook onwaar is. Zulk goed onderzoek is broodnodig in deze tijd van vergrijzing, alternatieve feiten, populisme en ongezonde scepsis over vaccinaties en klimaatverandering. In het leeuwendeel van het hedendaagse onderzoek ligt de empirische lat namelijk veel te laag. Meedogenloze methoden leggen die lat hoger, zodat we beter het kaf van het koren kunnen scheiden. Daarmee creëren we een sterkere basis voor vervolgonderzoek, versterken het vertrouwen in de wetenschap, en leveren betere kennis over het menselijk gedrag met meer nut voor de…

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