Our Statement of Commitment
Posted on June 6, 2016
The mission of Humane League Labs — to inform advocacy strategies through actionable research — is best realized when the larger movement for farm animals is able to adopt the recommendations that emerge from its studies. To aid in that process, today, we are releasing a statement of commitment about our research goals, policies, priorities and methodological principles. The studies we report in the coming months and years will conform to these commitments.
Commitment to actionable research
While all research seeks to discover new facts and generate new insights, not all research is actionable. Research is most useful when its findings can be employed to inform decisions we make regarding our programs on behalf of farm animals. Actionable research is the kind which helps clarify and quantify the effectiveness of advocacy strategies and which has the potential to generate recommendations on practical actions employed by activists.
Humane League Labs is committed to a singular focus on actionable research. This means keeping advocacy actions in mind in the design of research experiments. It means retaining an emphasis on solving problems of animal use and abuse. It means a reliance on empirical evidence over theoretical constructs. It means prioritizing research based on the practical inferential value of its potential findings.
Commitment to exceptional transparency
The concept of open data in science advocates that the raw data generated in scientific experiments should be freely available to all interested parties without having to ask for it. Unfortunately, even today, many research studies, including those that are peer-reviewed and published in reputable journals, do not release the raw data behind their scientific claims.
The concept of open code in science advocates that open data alone is not enough. It asks of researchers to make freely available — and without any interested party having to ask for it — the code used to process the raw data to generate the findings of a scientific study. This is done extremely rarely in the academia or at research institutions even though an open code policy contributes substantially to scientific progress by enabling verification by others through easier reproducibility.
Humane League Labs is committed to a policy of exceptional transparency encompassing both open data and open code.
Commitment to animal-centric metrics
As a non-profit focused on farm animals, our bottom line is ultimately dictated by the number of animal lives we save and the amount of animal suffering we reduce. Research in farm animal advocacy can sometimes overlook this bottom line and instead use human-centric metrics which may or may not serve as reliable proxies for animal-centric metrics. For example, the number of people who go vegan as a result of a campaign is a human-centric metric, while the number of animals saved as a result of that campaign is an animal-centric metric which does not simply ignore the animals not eaten by vegetarians or reducetarians.
Humane League Labs is committed to the use of animal-centric metrics whenever feasible. If human-centric metrics are unavoidable or necessary in a study, we will translate them into animal-centric metrics whenever possible.
Commitment to avoiding self-reported data
Measurement error swallows a big chunk of the statistical power of studies in farm animal advocacy related to diet. The chief cause of measurement errors in such research is usually our reliance on self-reported survey data. There are a few exceptions when self-reported data on diet can help draw some inferences, but they can be especially misleading when effect sizes are very small, as is the case in animal advocacy research given current dietary norms.
Humane League Labs is committed to significantly reducing the use of self-reported survey data in its studies related to dietary behaviors. We will emphasize the measurement of what people actually do over what people say they do.
Commitment to good statistical practice
Progress in the effectiveness of our advocacy on behalf of farm animals depends on good research; and, good research depends on good statistical practice. Besides, studies in farm animal advocacy are uniquely vulnerable to being underpowered, which calls for particular care in the statistical inferences we draw.
Humane League Labs is committed to good statistical practice. This implies many things including, but not limited to: using confidence intervals, descriptive statistics on effect sizes, and Bayesian methods in place of or in addition to significance testing; attempting only adequately powered studies in non-exploratory research; being cognizant of biases and limiting them; pre-registering study protocols for confirmatory research including stopping rules for data collection; not filing away insignificant or negative results; making reproducibility easy with open data and open code policies; probabilistic thinking in drawing inferences; and documenting deviations from research protocol.
Commitment to continual assessment and revision
Research findings on advocacy can be sensitive to context. They may depend on the demographics of the subjects, the culture of the city where the experiment is conducted or even the events surrounding the time when research is conducted. Besides, societal attitudes change and what was shown to work once cannot be guaranteed to work beyond a certain period of time.
The Humane League is committed to continual assessment and revision of its advocacy campaigns on behalf of farm animals. Humane League Labs is committed to not only conducting the research essential to such assessment but also developing plans for instrumenting measurement directly into activism to reduce the cost of both research and effective activism. Humane League Labs is uniquely well-positioned to serve this role given that it is a unit of The Humane League, with grassroots offices in cities nationwide engaged in a diverse portfolio of activism every day.
Commitment to ethics
Humane League Labs is committed to high standards of ethics in research. We will conduct research as capably as our expertise will permit and with honesty and integrity in how we manage conflicts of interest, research protocol compliance, privacy of research participants, attribution of credit, correction of errors, dissemination of research findings, data usage and preservation, and intellectual property.