Researcher degrees of freedom

Definition: refers to the flexibility often inherent in the scientific process, from hypothesis generation, designing and conducting a research study to processing the data and analyzing as well as interpreting and reporting results. Due to a lack of precisely defined theories and/or empirical evidence, multiple decisions are often equally justifiable. The term is sometimes used to refer to the opportunistic (ab-)use of this flexibility aiming to achieve desired results —e.g., when in- or excluding certain data— albeit the fact that technically the term is not inherently value-laden.

Related terms: Analytic Flexibility, Garden of forking paths, Model uncertainty, Multiverse analysis, P-hacking, Robustness (analyses), Specification curve analysis

References: Gelman and Loken (2013), Simmons et al. (2011), & Wicherts et al. (2016)

Drafted and Reviewed by: Tina Lonsdorf, Gilad Feldman, Helena Hartmann, Timo Roettger, Robbie C.M. van Aert, Flávio Azevedo

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