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There is a more fundamental question here: What is the problem in qualitative research that DA-RT is supposed to solve? Even if one were to grant that the discipline is awash with willful con-artists trying to pull the wool over everybody else’s eyes, DA-RT would only offer the veneer of rigor. People could still cherry pick their evidence and gloss it in tendentious ways. This has always been true of scholarly research, and always will be. Moreover, there is no easy way for the academy to resolve the problem of outright deception (any more than there is a way for us to root out intellectual dishonesty). What there is—all that there ever has been—is a commitment to the idea that just as we seek to challenge the entrenched orthodoxies of earlier generations, so too are our own intellectual contributions submitted for the consideration of those scholars who share our areas of expertise, whether today or at some point in the future. Asserting that one can offer such a contribution to knowledge depends, of course, on a kind of intellectual arrogance. But, when done well, this arrogance should be tempered by the humility of knowing that if one is saying anything even remotely interesting, then that thing will itself eventually be the subject of revision. The central problem with DA-RT might be that it lacks this kind of humility. It rests on the assumption that we can uncover the truth and assumes that if we can pile evidence upon evidence that will allow us to have more confidence in such a finding. Lisa Wedeen has already highlighted the narrowness of this scholarly imaginary. I would only add that any claim to truth of which we could all be convinced through the alchemy of DA-RT would probably be sufficiently obvious as to not merit the time and effort of proving it in the first place.
University of Wisconsin–Madison
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- Joined: Fri Feb 26, 2016 11:39 pm
Even more pertinent to the current discussion, the Spring 2015 QMMR symposium on "Transparency in Qualitative and Multi-Method Research" featured an extended, more differentiated discussion of the pros and cons of greater research transparency for a variety of different qualitative and multi-methods research--which we defined broadly as not per se statistical or experimental ways of gathering and analyzing empirical information (or, if you prefer: "generating data," processing it, and drawing inferences). The introduction and conclusion to the symposium in particular discuss many reasons why greater research transparency may be desirable (most of which has nothing to do with detecting or safeguarding against fabrication of data or falsification of findings). And Marc Trachtenberg notes that much archival research falls far short of what would be required to fully understand what the author did, use it to train graduate students, and to generally facilitate follow-up research. Note that the QMMR symposium did not take any particular position on DART, but rather focused on a set of questions that also have motivated the proposal for these deliberations:
(A) What does research transparency mean for you/for the kind of research you do? (Please specify the "kind of research you do.")
(B) About which elements of your research do you try to be particularly transparent (or, as Craig Parsons has suggested, particularly "explicit")? What kind of transparency do you most value in the work you read?
(C) What do you see as the most important costs, risks, and other specific concerns that keep you and other scholars who do the kind of work you do from being as transparent as you might otherwise wish to be?
(D) Are there specific tools or practices that you have found to be particularly useful (in your own work or the work of others) to achieve transparency without undue costs or risks?
Maybe for some of us the answer to all of these questions is ultimately "None" but we can't arrive at that conclusion with addressing these questions explicitly and with specific reference to the kind of work you do (or are concerned with). I would like to encourage all of you to try to address them. Many thanks in advance.