Resolving The Problems With Reporting The Development Of New Psychosocial Measurement Tools

If you are an academic, professor, researcher, scientist, or all of the above, then you know how important research tools are to your work. Without the right behavior measurement tools, databases, and instruments, your work would be impossible. Specifically, you may need to find the right psychosocial measurement tool in research. Researchers are developing new instruments and measurement tools all the time, often releasing these tools to their colleagues in the academic community. Unfortunately, these developers often fail to properly explain the purpose of their new instruments.

This can and does lead to confusion, frustration, wasted time, and wasted resources. However, it also leads to bad science.

In fact, when using a new psychosocial measurement tool in research, you may not even fully understand what this tool was designed to measure in the first place! While it may seem unlikely, health researchers and other scientists may come to rely on a behavior measurement tool whose true purpose they cannot explain. Thus, their scientific work, research, and outcomes may be compromised, to the detriment of the entire scientific community.

There is a simple solution to this persistent problem: when a developer releases a new psychosocial measurement tool in research settings, they have an obligation to also clearly explain the precise concept(s) their tool can measure. Likewise, trusted peer-reviewed journals shouldn’t publish any articles about the development of new instruments unless and until the developers can accomplish this simple goal.

To this end, social scientists who maintain behavioral instrument databases recommend guidelines for clearly explaining the purpose of a new psychosocial measurement tool in research.

  • When researchers or developers adapt a pre-existing measurement instrucment, they should explain where the tool originated and what they modified
  • If developers report “select items” from a previous tool, they must explain what items they analyzed
  • Developers must clearly name the author of their modified instrument
  • New instruments should be given a new, unique title
  • Author statements should be used to disclose any conflicts of interest or funding sources

In short, developers of behavioral measurement tools have an obligation to be as clear as possible when releasing a new tool to the larger community.

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