Preregistration: a practice for the language sciences
Preregistration is the practice of systematically documenting the methodological decisions involved in the design of a study. As the prefix -pre suggests, such documentation must occur prior to any data collection or analysis. Importantly, preregistering a study is one of the practices put forward by the open science movement. To put it briefly, open science is an umbrella term that encompasses a series of proposals for the production and dissemination of scientific knowledge. A primary concern of the movement is to advocate the adoption of more transparent, rigorous, and reproducible practices in research. In this context, preregistration is an important element for improving the robustness of scientific results due to its potential of reducing the occurrence of three well known problems in the scientific field: (i) publication bias, (ii) analytical flexibility, and (iii) the distinction between
exploratory and confirmatory research. Publication bias refers to the fact that more studies are conducted than published and that there is a preference for publishing positive results; thus, the peer-reviewed literature is biased towards positive and novel findings. Analytical flexibility refers to the researchers’ degree of freedom on the use of statistical procedures and data transformation, as well as, on the selective report of confirmatory results. Consequently, research outcomes may be misleading due to the possible presence of type I or type II errors. Finally, the distinction between exploratory and confirmatory research is important to facilitate the self-correctness process of science and to avoid the promotion of a distorted model of science. Considering such problems often present in the research cycle, the practice of documenting the methodological decisions of a study before the data collection or analysis has the potential to reduce publication bias, to avoid analytical flexibility, and to distinguish exploratory from confirmatory research. Having this in mind, in this work we argue that the language sciences would also benefit from the practice of preregistration. Considering the complexity of our object of study, linguists investigate language and its social manifestations through different perspectives and methodologies. Therefore, research on human language needs to be transparently and rigorously conducted. This is why we believe preregistering research in the language sciences is essential to assure the robustness of our findings and the impact that the knowledge we produce has in our society.