Anti-Popperism in business management research

Karl Popper’s contributions to science are many, but of the most important is the requirement for verifiability. He required of scientists and researchers to try time and again that we are wrong. But Wittelston (2016) thinks this is not happening and that the scientific community is plagued by at least 5 related biases that frustrate the process of falsification of study results. He discerned the verification bias, novelty bias, normal science, evidence and market biases as the five biases affecting research.

On verification bias, he writes that researchers are obsessively focused on the verification principle, that is, on trying to prove they are right be generating positives. This process involves HARKing where you develop hypotheses after the fact which is so anti-Popperian. Even unethical. He faults many journal editors who may reject or advise a change when the data doesn’t prove the hypothesis.

The demand for novelty by journals he posits is a second problem. This demand for ground breaking research, breaking new ground and all ignores the fact that most research is incremental. Ground breaking research is rare. He argues there are 3 good reasons to encourage ground laying or incremental research. One is that we don’t know a priori what research will turn out to be cutting edge, the second reason is that groundlaying contributions produce the building blocks for cutting edge research that enters this new ground and finally, the third reason is the role of replication studies both failed and successful ones.

He identified the normal science bias where results that seriously challenge the prevailing paradigm are not welcomed as a step toward further progress, but rather are put aside as mistakes of the scholar. While admitting that normal science practices are not entirely dysfunctional, they end up restricting out of the box thinking.

If only results with positive outcomes are published, then we are certain false positives will get published. This, he names the evidence bias. To treat this bias, he suggests for example a journal of replications where even failed studies will be published.

The desire for impact among top journals leads to the last bias; market bias. The commercial drive that is associated with impact means no journal editor wants to publish journals where the data do not support theory or where replication studies fail to prove the earlier reported results.

He proposes seven solutions to this problem and I will just copy and paste them here

  1. editorial policies might dispose of their current overly dominant pronovelty and pro-positives biases, and explicitly encourage the publication of replication studies, including failed and unsuccessful ones that report null and negative findings.
  2. an option is to stimulate pre-reviewing/pre-publishing of a study’s theory and design,
  3. open access publication by funding agencies and research institutes of all work produced prior to journal submission could provide access to studies not published in journals.
  4. all raw data, protocols and data analysis codes of accepted journal articles should be made available to the journal (which may collaborate with an established archive consortium) in order to make the execution of independent replication studies a way easier endeavor.
  5. a tradition of meta-analyses that correct for publication bias has to be established, similar to that in Medicine.
  6. reporting significance only is inadequate, as the p-statistic is anything but uncontroversial….. Additionally, therefore, I would support Hubbard and Armstrong’s (1997, p. 337) earlier plea for “reporting effect sizes and confidence intervals […] If statistical tests are used, power tests should accompany them.”
  7. journals may appoint a replication section editor

What do you fellows think and I am looking at you, Mike and Neil.

Is university education losing its value

I contend that that author of this post, though a university graduate himself did not understand the reason for the existence of the university. In an earlier post that I wrote, I mentioned what other scholars had identified as the raison d’etre for the existence of the university is scientific interest- pursuit for truth. This I think still remains the main goal for the existence of research institutions of higher learning.

Bertrand Russell in his reflections on education, writes in part

Instead of obedience and discipline, we ought to aim at preserving independence and impulse. Instead of ruthlessness, education should try to develop justice in thought. Instead of contempt, it ought to instill reverence, and the attempt at understanding; towards the opinions of others it ought to produce, not necessarily acquiescence, but only such opposition as is combined with imaginative apprehension and a clear realization of the grounds for opposition. Instead of credulity, the object should be to stimulate constructive doubt, the love of mental adventure, the sense of worlds to conquer by enterprise and boldness in thought. Contentment with the status quo, and subordination of the individual pupil to political aims, owing to the indifference to the things of the mind, are the immediate causes of these evils; but beneath these causes there is one more fundamental, the fact that education is treated as a means of acquiring power over the pupil, not as a means of nourishing his own growth.

Bertrand Russell

nowhere does he say or Ogot say the goal of university education or education for that matter is to get you a good job. This happens only as a matter of course. Many people around us have gotten wealthy with no university education and many others have remained almost destitute with university education. We can’t therefore measure the utility of university of education by how many people are employed. This happens, in my view, to be thought advanced by Edwin Hinda in the post I linked above.

He writes for example

Perhaps it is time to review our priorities. If, as a country, we just focus on the capability and productivity of our youth, we shall develop rapidly as opposed to investing in the theoretical university education, only for students to end up unemployed. Agriculture, the backbone of our economy, and the practical courses, are the only way out of this quagmire. University education is losing value and change is inevitable.

which I find quite problematic. For the youth to be productive, we need people who can think independently. Who can innovate. Who can acquire, analyse and apply knowledge to solve societies’ current problems. But if we think only of the stomach today, then we are better of returning to the pre-industrial era. We are living in the information age and it is time we behaved like it. The only people who will prosper will be those who can manipulate knowledge or information to their advantage in addressing any of the crises facing humanity.

The fact that our economy is not performing optimally in a way that adequate funding is not available for university education is not a reason to declare a loss of value for university. That a university student depends on their parents for education is not unique to Kenya only, but happens everywhere in the world, where university education is not free.

It is my humble submission that Edwin ought to refund his parents the money spent for his university education, apologise to his tutors and the community of students for not having benefited from his sojourn at the university.

Who are we?

I hope it is now 2023 everywhere, even in your backwater country so we can get back to business of writing, reading and occasionally shitting.

If you have worked in someone’s office or company and had to go through an interview, you must have been asked tell us about yourself kind of question and depending on how prepared you were, you told them about your training, your achievements and maybe even your interests. In a sense, this is easy. There are even resources one can refer to these days to ace this question.

This question is more difficult to answer when a stranger asks us about who we are. We are not in an interview so we are not going to wow them with what we did where. So do we tell them we are a husband, wife, or whatever our fancy, or do we talk about our likes? Do these, our likes, describe us? Are we to talk about our work? Or do we describe our lineage as our forefathers taught? In this last case, I would onyango son of, who is the son of, who was the son of, and from Asembo Kogiri. In this way, I would have given my true bonafides as a true son of the village, but is this all who I am?

Or would I say I am onyango an avid cyclist and hiker ( things I like) an architect and project manager (my training) a husband, father, uncle, friend ( societal obligations) and a PhD student (my current engagement). Would such a description be complete? What is missing, what would you add?

So friends, tell me, is this something you think about? And how do you answer this question?

it’s too early to comment on this

but i think this will be interesting. When I read it, I was reminded of my other readings into the works of the anthropologists who came to Africa with Christian missionaries in tow to find out whether my ancestors believed in a creator, monotheist god and then interpreted the names the Africans based on their biases to mean what they wanted. For example, while being taught catechism as a child, we would be asked ngano mano chweyo piny gi polo? This is translated as who created the earth and the heavens?. But this translation is misleading. There is no concept of ex nihilo creation in Dholuo. And the right meaning would be who moulded the heavens and the earth. In this second interpretation, the subject is working with available material to mould a world out of it. A creation out of nothing wouldn’t make sense to my ancestors. It doesn’t make sense to me either. That looks like the same thing with the Egyptian mummies. But as a good student, I suggest we wait for more researches into this matter. Unfortunately, we will have to rely on conjecture and speculation and we will take the solution that makes the least assumptions and marries well with the data we got until we are lucky one day to resurrect one of the dead Egyptian embalmers.

Did I miss something? What do you think of the article? But you can also talk about anything your fancy drives you to. We can call this a new year open comment post. You can also suggest what you would like your host to write about this year. I promise to take these suggestions seriously.

Greetings

Hello everyone, it’s been a long minute, I know and I am sorry. The truth is I have just gotten busy and I don’t like writing half baked blogs. Sharing quotes I like becomes sometimes too much, and so the best is to have some space between them.

That said, I want to wish all of you the best in the coming year. Good health, joy, wealth, and if possible don’t die on us, if you can help it. But if you die, so be it. But die such that we can tweet about it- I jest-

With love, happy new year!

Discuss

The passage is an excerpt from intentions by Oscar Wilde. In this passage, he is writing about consciousness. Do you agree or disagree with him and why?

“ It is worse than a delusion.  If we lived long enough to see the results of our actions it may be that those who call themselves good would be sickened with a dull remorse, and those whom the world calls evil stirred by a noble joy.  Each little thing that we do passes into the great machine of life which may grind our virtues to powder and make them worthless, or transform our sins into elements of a new civilisation, more marvellous and more splendid than any that has gone before.  But men are the slaves of words.  They rage against Materialism, as they call it, forgetting that there has been no material improvement that has not spiritualised the world, and that there have been few, if any, spiritual awakenings that have not wasted the world’s faculties in barren hopes, and fruitless aspirations, and empty or trammelling creeds.  What is termed Sin is an essential element of progress.  Without it the world would stagnate, or grow old, or become colourless.  By its curiosity Sin increases the experience of the race.  Through its intensified assertion of individualism, it saves us from monotony of type.  In its rejection of the current[…]”

I am thinking of a title for this post

The last few weeks have been interesting. For some inexplicable reason, time seems to be moving faster than usual and catching up with my favourite blogs has been in the back burner. I wanted to say life has happened but I realise even blogging and reading the different blogs engaging with different people and thoughts is part of that life.

This year has been interesting. I discovered I could listen to podcasts. Strike that. I can binge listen, if that’s a thing. I have found a few podcasts that are just the right length and with content that I like which makes me wonder I didn’t start this much earlier.

We don’t have control in this life and I think this is quite freeing. You can eat healthy, exercise, manage stress and still fucking get cancer. This is not to say we shouldn’t try to live healthy or make plans but to be open to these plans and goals being upended when life serves you a curve ball.

Make plans, set goals but don’t be fixated on achieving them. Allow yourself room to miss these goals, to fail, even to do something different. Most of all, enjoy life. We are here to be a happy. If what you’re doing is sucking happiness out of you, maybe you should quit and do something else.

Happy weekend everyone

Random things

To live up to the moniker of this blog of random thoughts, I have to occasionally mix unrelated events in one post or to just write randomly. So this is one of those days.

My friend Pat (atheist meow) lost her partner of many years last week. She tells me she is keeping well even if a bit lost.

The last 3 weeks, Cop27 has been on in Egypt. My brother was one of the participants and I hope he will send me a report of the deliberations especially on areas to deal with human settlements. While on the subject of climate change, I listened to a guy not long ago who persuaded me that in most cases the approach is wrong. You can’t sell an EV to a poor guy. To get the poor guy to use alternative green energy we must get them outta poverty. In essence, one of the most important approaches to climate mitigation should be addressing poverty. What do you think?

Your sometimes genial but mostly loud host is looking for scholarship to cover tuition and research for his next academic year. Any pointers to funding organisations or wealthy donors would be highly appreciated.

The world cup begins today and I am no football fan though I am looking forward to the opening ceremony. I consider the opening ceremony the most interesting session of the world cup. Russia did a poor job at it though.

Talking of Russia, is the war ending soon?

Finally, I hope you all are keeping pretty well. Have a pleasant week ahead, everyone.