When University of Missouri psychologist Harris Cooper, PhD, succeeded Arizona State University psychologist Nancy Eisenberg, PhD, as editor of Psychological Bulletin on Jan. 1, he brought more than 25 years of experience in research synthesis--the journal's hallmark--to the position.
He is one of only a few behavioral scientists who has made a career of improving the science of conducting research reviews, and has helped make research synthesis a more dominant force in policy and practice domains. He has authored or co-authored 20 literature reviews, consulted on dozens of other synthesis projects and reviewed hundreds of research syntheses for journals in the behavioral and medical sciences.
As editor of Psychological Bulletin, the flagship journal for research synthesis in psychology, Cooper says he hopes to maintain the journal's quality and its reputation as "the showcase for the best research that scientific psychology has to offer."
One of his goals in his editorship, he says, is to boost the representation of ethnic minorities in the editorial process through the use of APA's ethnic minority search database, which was brought online last spring for journal editors' use. However, Cooper notes, "The first rule in choosing a reviewer must always be that reviewers are expert, conscientious, constructive in their feedback and committed to the advancement of psychology as a science."
Psychological Bulletin's greatest strength, Cooper says, is its ability to help psychologists make sense of broad issues and chart a course for future research.
"As research on a particular topic area accumulates," he says, "there is the danger of results seeming to be in conflict because of contextual effects and sampling error. The promise and challenge of doing research syntheses is to make sense of large literatures--to derive the 'signal' from the 'noise.'"
That contribution to science, he argues, has become increasingly valuable as the social sciences have expanded in the past 30 years. With such growth in the volume of research on any given social scientific topic, he suggests, the need for rigorous, exhaustive research syntheses has also grown.
"It is important to view research synthesis as a scientific enterprise," Cooper emphasizes. "But we should also bear in mind one of my favorite adages, 'The proper tool for the proper job.' In the same way that a carpenter picks a certain tool for a particular project, so should we use all the tools at our disposal to build psychological knowledge structures based on the blueprints of science, so they stand the test of time."
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