Fine be skeptical... im all for skeptical. And I'm all for published data , archived stakeholder discussion, and overall process transparency as can be achieved in any development process. I believe those things have value and help to build an informed citizenry not just in political governance but in all participatory communities. And there is always room for improvement in process transparency.
However, if we are going to hold up the previous Sun design study from 2001 during the GNOME 1.x era as a gold standard on how to do it well...let's be realistic about what the end result will be with regard to perception by going back and really looking at the reaction to the changes made as a result of that study. I don't remember it being a hugfest. In fact if you look really closely at the history, its the Sun study that really kicked off the move to minimalist design meme that GNOME tries to really adhere closely to over the long life of GNOME 2.x and into GNOME 3.x. People want to gripe a lot about the pruning of options out out dialogs and other interface components...it started with that design study.
And that Sun study consisted of "novice" GNOME users unfamiliar with linux and GNOME... not existing GNOME users.... not those of us here right now. And that is important to keep in mind. I do not believe that more novice user testing of this sort is going to appease any of the most vocal who are chafing at the changes. I do however believe that more novice user testing will result in better long term designs which are more iOS and Android like simply because thats now the what novice and casual computer users are most familiar with.I do not assume that designs focused on the novice will be optimal for me or for anyone else here. In fact I sort of expect the opposite. And I'm okay with that. I know I'm not a good target audience... what everyone else reading this needs to understand is.. they aren't a good target either.