Rife creates web program to check statistics in reports

Story by Michelle Hawks, Contributing writer

Sean Rife, assistant professor of Psychology, created a web program that will allow psychologists to check the statistics used in their reports.

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Rife

Rife said the program the site is based on began in the Netherlands and was created by Sacha Epskamp and Michèle B. Nuijten.

Epskamp is an assistant professor in psychological methods and psychometrics at the University of Amsterdam.

Nuijten is a Ph.D. student at Tilburg University. According to her personal website, her research focuses on meta-science, which includes topics such as replication, publication bias, statistical errors and questionable research practices.

Rife said the program comes as part of a big movement within psychology.

“We are becoming increasingly concerned about errors and trying to make sure we report everything accurately,” Rife said.

He said the program identifies the appropriate p-value for a reported t-value, given a certain number of degrees of freedom, and verifies that it is correct. However, he said that this cannot verify if the correct test was used or if any of the conditions had failed to be met, which he said was still up to the researcher to decide.

“This is just one tool in the toolbox of making sure we’re reporting things accurately,” Rife said.

He said he began to contact Epskamp and Nuijten over the summer and after getting their permission, they began to collaborate over Skype and email.

“I think it speaks for what can be accomplished with technology and how effective collaboration can be,” Rife said.

He said while the program was created for use within the psychology field, it can be used by anyone if the paper is written in APA format.

“The advantage of this program is that prior to submitting a paper, they can run it through the web app and see if they made any mistakes,” Rife said. “The idea is that the app will catch the errors before they enter into the scientific record.”

He said he spoke to a number of colleagues who have already found the program useful, which he said he finds encouraging.

Rife said he is implementing the program into his classes and he encourages his students to use it in their research.

He said in the future, the program will be improved and new features will be added.