Professor Betsy Levy Paluck and librarian Meghan Testerman awarded Data-Driven Social Science Initiative Grant to fund open database of prejudice reduction studies

Sunday, Sep 20, 2020
by Meghan Testerman, Behavioral Sciences Librarian with Office of Library Communications

Professor of psychology and public affairs Betsy Levy Paluck and behavioral sciences librarian Meghan Testerman were recently awarded Princeton’s Data-Driven Social Science Initiative (DDSSI) Grant for their joint proposal, “Prejudice Reduction: Creating an Open Repository of ‘What Works’ from Experimental Research.” 

A decade ago, Paluck and Donald P. Green, professor of political science at Columbia University, composed an essay for the Annual Review of Psychology that addressed the vast literature on prejudice from a new vantage point. Instead of reviewing leading theories of how prejudices are formed and expressed, Paluck and Green (2009) summarized theory and evidence on how to reduce prejudice. The review article immediately attracted scholarly attention and earned a "highly cited" badge on ISI Web of Science. 

That essay’s most salient contribution was to put "prejudice reduction" on the map as a central object of study that speaks to both social science theory and real-world policymaking. Importantly, they linked their essay to a resource that proved to be equally if not more influential—a database that listed and made available for thematic searching the comprehensive list of over 900 studies that they had compiled for the purposes of writing the essay. The database was hosted on Paluck’s personal website and received hundreds of hits per month and has been cited in subsequent work as a resource for scholars reviewing the literature on prejudice reduction and developing new interventions to be tested. In short, the need for a database of studies curated by an expert in the field was clear. 

The rapid growth, internationalization, and increasing interdisciplinary status of the field of prejudice reduction has caused this original prejudice reduction database and searchable website resource to become out-of-date. Moreover, the technology used to host this database was decommissioned in 2019.

The DDSSI Grant will fully fund the creation of a new enduring web platform with a searchable open database of all prejudice reduction studies: the 900 from the previous review and the over 400 new studies from a new updated meta-analysis that covers experimental research on prejudice reduction authored by Paluck, Green, and Princeton psychology and School of Public and International Affairs graduate student Chelsey Clark, and Hebrew University professor Roni Porat.

“Betsy and I are thrilled to be able to take this project to fruition," Testerman said. "I think all of us can understand how important the study of prejudice reduction interventions is in this moment; what works, what doesn’t, what theories are being tested, and which interventions have meaningful effects. It is our hope that this corpus of literature, provided in an open and searchable format, will provide a foundation upon which the field can grow and improve the lives of many by providing support for evidence-based policy decisions.”

The new open repository will greatly benefit the wider social science and policy communities by informing both experimental work and policy decisions. In addition to the direct benefits, the database will serve as a template for similar research projects. Both Paluck and Testerman are vocal advocates of open research practices. While most meta-analyses are non-transparent and do not share data or materials, an open repository of this kind can set a positive example of how research rigor, transparency, and reproducibility can be applied to systematic reviews and meta-analyses, in any field.