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"It’s a safeguard for the creep of subjectivity."

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

This is a slightly odd phrase indeed, but I'm quite confident you can interpret it as:

"It [the test of replicability] is a process that prevents subjectivity [opinions and views] from being accepted [over fact]."

Note that the creep here means "the slow intrusion".

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+1 This is much more concise than my answer, and I think you nailed it. – Andy F Jan 12 '11 at 14:50
@Andy F: Thanks. :) I think we're agreed on meaning in any case. – Noldorin Jan 12 '11 at 16:18
+1, nice clear explanation. “…a safeguard for…” seems somewhat unidiomatic to me here: I would have expected “…a safeguard against…”? I think of the general usage as “a safeguard against [threat] for [vulnerable thing]”, eg “a safeguard against rust for my knives”. – PLL Jan 12 '11 at 16:58
Agreed - "a safeguard for" just doesn't seem like a natural construction. – Noldorin Jan 12 '11 at 17:27

In the context of the article, for those who haven't read it, the quote reads:

Different scientists in different labs need to repeat the protocols and publish their results. The test of replicability, as it’s known, is the foundation of modern research. Replicability is how the community enforces itself. It’s a safeguard for the creep of subjectivity.

First off, subjectivity is the act of being subjective. Something subjective is based on opinion or belief, and is the opposite of something objective, which is not based on opinion, and is a fact based, repeatable observation. For instance:

The picture looks nice in this room

is subjective, as it's arguable that the picture does indeed look nice in that room (it's an opinion!)


The picture is in this room

is objective, as the picture is inarguably within the room.

In this context the verb "to creep" has been used to refer to the encroachment of subjectivity into the scientist's experiments. If the results of an experiment can't be replicated independently by several teams of scientists, it cannot be said to be objective.

Therefore the author is saying that replicability is important to these scientists because it means that the results remain objective.

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