Research Bias or, Collaborative Competition?

In the academy, research is not always a collaborative experience, but rather, competitive, more like a World Series or Super Bowl championship game.  All season long, even the players on the same team compete amongst each other for a chance to start and be noticed.  This makes for a very interesting tension.  I call this “collaborative competition.” We assume that each research practitioner is working in concert with others in a quest to uncover scientific truths, challenging assumptions, validate and confirm, thus, adding to the field of inquiry something new and important, a revelation or paradigm shift. Truth is, this rarely ever happens.  Yes, as many of you have pointed out in prior blog posts, some researchers do provide insights that help validate existing studies but others focus only the the results that merely reflect their bias. And… here is the rub, researchers don’t play well together. Unlike professional team sports, researchers are biased and prefer to play only with those that agree with their findings and perspectives, (Kuhn, 1962). 

Indeed, philosopher Thomas Kuhn (1991) captures this interesting dynamic in his classic book, The Structure of Scientific Paradigms. Research bias is the seeds of group think and functional fixedness. How can we break away from this academic echo chamber?  How and where can one find the truth? Unbiased researchers will challenge assumptions and carefully and precisely reconstruct an experiment or study to see if the results hold up over multiple trials? This is called construct validity. It rarely ever does.  The challenge is to seek the Spirit of Truth in everything.  So, research can fall into two camps, group think (everyone thinks alike) or, seekers of the Truth (honoring diversity, different perspectives and practicing collaborative competition). Sadly, in post-modern higher education today, there is very little collaborative competition, most research is the result of group think and easy to poke holes. This is perhaps why there is so much divisiveness in perspectives on research.  The truth bites so the progressive “all inclusive” socially constructed, politically correct lie says, everyone gets a trophy. This popular narrative seems to gain more traction than the truth.  But, through authentic, honest and open (AHO) inspired conversations we have the opportunity to collaborate and break free from the bondage of post-modern constructivism and represent the next generation of research practitioners that are committed to seeking the truth.  What is your perspective?

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