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Justify Your Alpha: A Response to "Redefine Statistical Significance"

Accepted submission by takyon at 2018-01-27 14:17:00

Psychologist Daniël Lakens disagrees with a proposal to redefine statistical significance to require a 0.005 p-value [], and has crowdsourced an alternative set of recommendations with 87 co-authors []:

Psychologist Daniël Lakens of Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands is known for speaking his mind, and after he read an article titled "Redefine Statistical Significance []" on 22 July 2017, Lakens didn't pull any punches: "Very disappointed such a large group of smart people would give such horribly bad advice []," he tweeted.

In the paper, posted on the preprint server PsyArXiv, 70 prominent scientists argued in favor of lowering a widely used threshold for statistical significance in experimental studies: The so-called p-value should be below 0.005 instead of the accepted 0.05, as a way to reduce the rate of false positive findings and improve the reproducibility of science []. Lakens, 37, thought it was a disastrous idea. A lower α, or significance level, would require much bigger sample sizes, making many studies impossible. Besides. he says, "Why prescribe a single p-value, when science is so diverse?"

Lakens and others will soon publish their own paper to propose an alternative; it was accepted on Monday by Nature Human Behaviour, which published the original paper proposing a lower threshold [] in September 2017. The content won't come as a big surprise—a preprint has been up on PsyArXiv [] for 4 months—but the paper is unique for the way it came about: from 100 scientists around the world, from big names to Ph.D. students, and even a few nonacademics writing and editing in a Google document for 2 months.

Lakens says he wanted to make the initiative as democratic as possible: "I just allowed anyone who wanted to join and did not approach any famous scientists."

Original Submission