Reflecting on Failed Research

Convenor: Professor Martin Weichbold
Affiliation: University of Salzburg

Session Details

At conferences we usually hear about remarkable outcomes in scientific research: Colleagues report how they achieved striking results, using sophisticated research designs and applying complex analytical tools. But everybody who has ever conducted research by him/herself knows that during the research process not necessarily everything runs smoothly. Of course, dealing with unforeseen difficulties is an essential part of empirical research, but sometimes we have to admit that certain decisions were wrong, a research strategy didn’t work out or maybe even the whole research project failed in the end.
This session wants to provide space to discuss research attempts that finally disappeared in a drawer. The aim of the session is not to make someone look like a fool or to satisfy the other’s curiosity, but to reflect on causes of failed research and to learn from mistakes. As failing is not always a matter of the researchers’ incompetence but can have multiple reasons, reporting what happened - and why – this session may be a step forward to prevent others from making the same mistakes.
In our proposal the term “failed” should be understood in a broad sense: reasons can reach from practical things (difficult access to the field, problems with funding, external incidents…), methodical problems (bad questionnaire, inappropriate survey period, sampling difficulties, problems with interviewers, etc. …) to methodological misconceptions (incoherent or too complex research design, incompatibilities of different parts of the study,…) or theoretical issues (difficulties in the implementation of theoretical concepts for empirical research,…).
We encourage researchers to present their reflections on failed research projects. The session should provide an open platform to discuss about difficulties in our daily research activities and to encourage a new code of practice – not to ignore failed research but to learn from it.

[3rd coorganizer Dr. Dimitri Prandner; male;; University of Linz]