The Institute for Quantitative Social Science, supported by generous anonymous donors, will offer a few selected Harvard social science faculty unusual help collecting extraordinary evidence for their extraordinary claims.

What is an Extraordinary Claim?

An empirical claim is a statement that could be true and would be demonstrated to be true with enough supporting evidence. An extraordinary claim is an empirical claim unusually distant from the current dominant view of the scientific community.  We aim to support Harvard faculty projects that, if empowered to collect the necessary evidence, will move the dominant position of the scientific community the farthest distance. Thus, our goal -- extraordinary claims with extraordinary evidence.

Researchers have strong career incentives to try to convince the scientific community to change dominant views about the veracity of empirical claims, as larger rewards are given for demonstrating more extraordinary claims, but larger penalties are assessed for failed efforts to defend these extreme views. Pursuing extraordinary claims may thus involve serious reputational risks for the investigator, and sometimes involves onerous data collection and analysis tasks that are not attractive to mainstream funders. And yes, we only really care whether your claim is true, but the best way humanity has ever found to evaluate the veracity of claims is the dominant view of the scientific community; thus, in science, investigators always need to convince both themselves and others.

Many extraordinary claims are explicitly contrarian positions that, if true, demonstrate the folly of unrecognized, incorrect, or unsupported assumptions in, or conclusions of, existing research. Others are about subjects not actively being studied and which scholars incorrectly assume we understand or think are not worth investigating, but with the potential to effect a major change in the dominant view of a field. We’re also happy to learn of categories of extraordinary claims we should include.

Related IQSS Services

  1. Peer Pre-Review: The Alexander and Diviya Magaro Peer Pre-Review program can increase the quality of your scholarship and speed up the journal peer review process by providing early external feedback on papers, grants, and pre-registration reports.
  2. Data Science Services: The Data Science Services team assists researchers in the Harvard community working on publication research in overcoming obstacles at every stage of the research process. If you have a statistical and/or programming related issue, they can help you solve it. They offer a variety of free services.