Putting the ‘I’ in open science: How you can change the face of science

If we want to shift from a closed science to an open science, there has to be change at several levels. In this process, it’s easy to push the responsibility (and the power) for reform onto “the system”: “If only journals changed their policy …”, “It’s the responsibility of the granting agencies to change XYZ”, or “Unless university boards change their hiring practices, it is futile to …”.

Beyond doubt, change has to occur at the institutional level. In particular, many journals have already done a lot (see, for example, the TOP guidelines or the new registered reports article format). But journal policies aren’t enough, particularly since they are often not enforced.

In this blog post, I want to advocate for a complementary position of agency and empowerment: Let’s focus on steps each individual can do!

Here I want to show 9 steps that each individual can do, starting today, to foster open science:

What you can do today:

1) Join the community. Follow open science advocates on Twitter and blogs. While monitoring these tweets does not change anything per se, it can give you important updates about developments in open science, and useful hints about how to implement open science in practice. Here’s my personal, selective, and incomplete list of Twitter users that frequently tweet about open science: https://twitter.com/nicebread303/lists/openscience

2) Engage open values in peer review. I started to realize that my work as a reviewer is very valuable work. I review more than 6x the number of papers that I submit myself. I receive more requests than I can handle, so I have to decide anyway which request to accept and which not. Where should I allocate my reviewing resources to? I prefer not to allocate them to research that is closed and practically unverifiable. I’d rather allocate them to research that is transparent, verifiable, sustainable, and re-usable.

pro_lock_wide2-1024x410Exactly this is the goal of the PRO initiative (Peer Reviewer Openness initiative), which uses the reviewer’s role to foster open science practices.  The vision of the initiative is to switch from an opt-in model to an opt-out model: Openness is the new default; if authors don’t want it, they have to explicitly opt out. Signatories of the initiative only provide a comprehensive review of a manuscript if (a) open data and open material is provided, or (b) a public justification is given in the manuscript why this is not possible. Since the two weeks of the initiative’s existence, more than 160 reviewers signed it. I think this group already can have some impact, and I hope that more will sign.

[Read the paper — Sign the Initiative — More resources for open science]

Previous posts on the PRO initiative by Richard Morey, Candice Morey, Rolf Zwaan, and Daniel Lakens

What you can do this week:

3) Commit yourself to open science. In our “Voluntary Commitment to Research Transparency and Open Science” we explain which principles of research transparency we will follow from the day of signature on (see also my blog post). If you like it, sign it, and show the world that your research can be trusted and verified. Or use it as an inspiration to craft your own transparency commitment, on the openness level that you feel comfortable with.

4) Find local like-minded people. Find colleagues in your department that embrace the values of open science as you do. Found a local open science initiative where you can exchange about challenges, help each other with practical problems (How did that pre-registration work?), and talk about ways open science can be implemented in your specific field. Use this “coalition of the willing” as the starting point for the next step …

What you can do this month:

5) Found a local Open-Science-Committee. Explore whether your local open science initiative could be installed as an official open science committee (OSC) at your department/ institution. See our OSF project for information about our open science committee at the department psychology at LMU Munich. Maybe you can reuse and adapt some of our material. Not all of our faculty members have the same opinion about this committee, some are enthusiastic, some are more skeptical. But still, the department’s board unanimously decided to establish this committee in order to keep the discussion going. Our OSC has 32 members from all chairs and we meet two times each semester. Our OSC has 4 goals:

  • Monitor the international developments in the area of open science and communicate them to the department.
  • Organize workshops that teach skills for open science
  • Develop concrete suggestions concerning tenure-track criteria, hiring criteria, PhD supervision and grading, teaching, curricula, etc.
  • Channel the discussion concerning standards of research quality and transparency in the department. Explore in what way a department-wide consensus can be established concerning certain points of open science.

6) Pre-register your next study. Pre-registration is a new skill we have to learn, so the first try does not have to be perfect. For example, I had to revise two of my registrations because I forgot important parts in the first version. In my experience, writing a few pre-registration documents gives you a better feeling for how long they take, what they should contain, what level of detail is appropriate, etc.

You can even win 1000$ if you participate in the pre-reg challenge!

What you can do next semester and beyond:

7) Teach open science practices to students. You could plan your next Research Methods course as a pre-registered replication study.   See also this OSF collection of syllabi, the “Good Science, Bad Science” course from EJ Wagenmakers, and the OSF Collaborative Replications and Education Project (CREP).

8) Submit a registered report. Think about submitting a registered report if there’s a journal in your field that supports this format. In this new article format an introduction, methods section, and analysis plan is submitted before data is collected. This proposal is sent to review, and in the positive case you get an in-principle-acceptance and proceed to actual data collection. This means, the paper is published independent of the results (unless you screw up your data collection or analysis).

9) Promote the values of open science in committees. As a member of a job committee, you can argue for open science criteria and evaluate candidates (amongst other criteria, of course) whether they engage in open practices. For example, Betsy Levy Paluck wrote in her blog: “In a hiring capacity, I will appreciate applicants who, though they do not have a ton of publications, can link their projects to an online analysis registration, or have posted data and replication code. Why? I will infer that they were slowing down to do very careful work, that they are doing their best to build a cumulative science.”

These are 9 small and medium steps, which each researcher could implement to some extent. If enough researchers join us, we can change the face of research.

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