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A (non-viral) copyleft/sharealike license for open research data

by Felix Schönbrodt & Roland Ramthun

The open availability of scientific material (such as research data, code, or other material) has often been identified as one cornerstone of a trustworthy, reproducible, and verifiable science. At the same time, the actual availability of such reproducible material still is scarce (though on the rise).

To increase the availability of open scientific material, we propose a license for scientific research data that increases the availability of other open scientific material. It borrows a mechanism from open source software development: The application of copyleft (or, in the CC terminology, “sharealike”) licenses. These are so-called “sticky licenses”, because they require that every reuse of the licensed material has to have the same license. This means, if you reuse material under this license, your own product/derivative must also (a) be freely reusable and (b) use that license, so that any derivative from your product is free as well, ad infinitum.

The promise of such a “viral” license is that it can induce more and more freedom into a system. It is supposed to be a strategy to reform the environment: The more artifacts have a copyleft license, the more likely it is that future products have the same license, until, at the end, everything is free.

Picture of a viral license by Phoebus87 (

One criticism of such licenses stems from the definition of “freedom”: According to this point of view, the highest degree of freedom is if you can do anything with a material. This also includes commercial usage, which is usually closed for competitive reasons, or to integrate the material into a larger dataset which itself can not be open, because other parts of the data have restrictive licenses. We are not lawyers, but in our understanding this could, for example, also include restrictions due to privacy rights.

For example, imagine the compilation of an integrative database that includes both material from a copyleft source and another source that has individual-related material, which cannot be openly shared due to privacy rights (but could be shared as a restricted scientific use file). At least from our understanding, a strict copyleft license would preclude the reuse in such a restricted way. Hence, the copyleft license, although claiming to ensure freedom, does preclude a lot of potential reuse scenarios. From this point of view, a so-called permissive license (such as CC0, MIT, or BSD) provides more freedom than a copyleft license (see, e.g., The Whys and Hows of Licensing Scientific Code).

We propose a system that addresses both points of view, with the goal to provide some stickiness of scientific open sharing, but also the possibility to operate with scientific material that require restrictiveness, for example due to privacy rights.

The proposed copyleft license for open data: Open data requires open analysis code.

We suggest the following clause for the reuse of open research data:

Upon publication of any scientific work under a broad definition (including, but not limited to journal papers, books or book chapters, conference proceedings, blog posts) that is based in full or in part on this data set, all data analysis scripts involved in the creation of this work must be made openly available under a license that allows reuse (e.g., BSD or MIT).

(Of course more topics must be addressed in the license, such as the obligation to properly cite the authors of the data set, not to try to reidentify research participants, etc. But we focus only on the copyleft aspect here).

This system has some differences from traditional copyleft licenses.

  • First, usually the reuser has to share any derivative, which often is the same category as the open material (typically: you reuse a piece of software, and have to share your own software product under an open license). In this proposal, you reuse open data, and have to share open analysis code. Hence, you support the openness of a community in another currency. Without the need to publish derived data sets, integration scenarios of usually incompatible, open and closed data become possible.
  • Second, it restricts the copyleft property to a certain type of reuse, namely the creation of scientific work. This ensures, on the one hand, that open knowledge grows and scientific claims are verifiable to a larger extent than before. On the other hand, commercial reuse is enabled; furthermore there might be non-scientific reuse scenarios that do not involve analysis code, where the clause is not applicable anyway. Finally, even the most restrictive data set (where you have to go to a repository operator and analyze the data on dedicated computers in a secure room) can generate open derivatives.
  • Third, the license is not sticky: The published open analysis code itself does not require a copyleft when it is reused. Instead it has a permissive license.

Against the “research parasite” argument

The proposed system offers some protection against the “research parasites” argument. The parasite discussion refers to the free-rider problem in social dilemmas: While some people invest resources to provide a public good, others (the parasites/free-riders) profit from the public good, without giving back to the community (see also Linek et al., 2017). This often creates a feeling of injustice, and impulses to punish the free-riders. (An entire scientific field is devoted to the structural, sociological, political, and psychological properties and consequences of such social dilemma structures.)

In the proposed licensing system, those who profit from openness by reusing open data must give something back to the community. This increases overall openness, reusability, and reproducibility of scientific outputs, and probably decreases feelings of exploitation and unfairness for the data providers.

Do you think such a license would work? Do you see any drawbacks we didn’t think of?

You can leave feedback here as a comment, on Twitter (@nicebread303) or via email to

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Differentiate the Power Motive into Dominance, Prestige, and Leadership: New Tool and Theory

This is a guest post from Felix Suessenbach.


What is the dominance, prestige, and leadership account of the power motive?

Researchers of motivational psychology have long struggled with the power motive’s heterogeneous definition encompassing elements such as desires for dominance, reputation, prestige, leadership, and status (e.g., Winter, 1973). This heterogeneity has likely been responsible for researchers having found different relationships between the power motive and external variables depending on which power motive scale they used (e.g., Engeser & Langens, 2010). Thus, to provide a long-needed taxonomy of clearly distinguishable power motive components we developed the dominance, prestige, and leadership (DoPL) account of social power motives. In particular we differentiate between:

  • The dominance motive, defined as a desire for coercive power obtained through threats, intimidation, or deception

  • The prestige motive, defined as a desire for voluntary deference obtained through others’ admiration and respect particularly for one’s valued skills and knowledge

  • The leadership motive, defined as a desire for legitimised power granted by one’s group and obtained through taking responsibility in and for this group

Opposed to previous attempts to differentiate different power motive components (e.g., socialised and personalised power; McClelland, 1970) the DoPL account of social power motives is based on a solid theoretical framework adapted from research into social hierarchies (e.g., Cheng, Tracy, & Henrich, 2010; Henrich & Gil-White, 2001). Thus, the DoPL account does not suffer from strongly different interpretations of how these components manifest themselves.

Empirical results:

Using newly developed DoPL questionnaires we showed the DoPL motives can be measured both reliably and distinctively (study 1). Moreover, we showed these DoPL motives strongly related to a common power desire (study 2), explaining more than 80% of variance in two established power motive scales (UMS power, Schönbrodt & Gerstenberg, 2012; PRF dominance, Jackson, 1984). Assessing their nomological networks (studies 3 & 4), we demonstrated distinct associations such as between…

  • the dominance motive and self-reported anger and verbal aggression

  • the prestige motive and self-reported fear of losing reputation and claiming to have higher moral concerns

  • the leadership motive and self-reported emotional stability and helping behaviour

Regarding observed behaviour and other external variables (studies 5 to 7) we found:

  • The dominance motive uniquely and negatively predicted the amount of money given to another player in a dictator game after having received nothing in two previous dictator games. This effect can be explained by a combination of general agonistic tendencies as well as retaliatory desires related to the dominance motive.

  • The leadership motive uniquely predicted the attainment of higher employment ranks across all kinds of professions. This effect was somewhat stronger in females which might be explained by discrimination against females regarding promotions and thus females having to compensate by being more highly motivated to reach high leadership positions.

  • When donating behaviour to a charity was made overt, residualised dominance motives (i.e., controlled for shared prestige and leadership influences) related negatively to the overall proportion donated to a charity as well as the probability to donate. Whereas residualised leadership motives only related positively to the overall amount donated to charity, residualised prestige motives only related positively to the probability to donate. Thus, to some degree, dominance desires relate negatively and leadership and prestige desires positively to prosocial donating behaviour.


This research shows that different power motive components in many (but not all) cases relate differently to a range of external variables. Thus, to improve the prediction of influential power-relevant behaviour as a function of individuals’ power desires we invite researchers to employ this novel taxonomy of power motives to further advance this important field of research.


Cheng, J. T., Tracy, J. L., & Henrich, J. (2010). Pride, personality, and the evolutionary foundations of human social status. Evolution and Human Behavior, 31, 334–347

Engeser, S., & Langens, T. (2010). Mapping explicit social motives of achievement, power, and affiliation onto the five-factor model of personality. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 51, 309–318

Henrich, J., & Gil-White, F. J. (2001). The evolution of prestige: Freely conferred deference as a mechanism for enhancing the benefits of cultural transmission. Evolution and Human Behavior, 22, 165–196

Jackson, D. N. (1984). Personality research form manual (3rd ed.). Port Huron: Research Psychologists Press.

McClelland, D. C. (1970). The two faces of power. Journal of International Affairs, 24, 29–47.

Schönbrodt, F. D., & Gerstenberg, F. X. R. (2012). An IRT analysis of motive questionnaires: The unified motive scales. Journal of Research in Personality, 46, 725–742 [Free PDF on OSF]

Winter, D. G. (1973). The power motive. New York: The Free Press.

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Hiring Policy at the LMU Psychology Department: Better have some open science track record

In 2015, the psychology department at LMU Munich for the first time announced a professorship position with an “open science statement” (see original job description here):

Our department embraces the values of open science and strives for replicable and reproducible research. For this goal we support transparent research with open data, open materials, and study pre-registration. Candidates are asked to describe in what way they already pursued and plan to pursue these goals.

Since then, every professorship announcement contained this paragraph (and we made good experiences with it).

I am very happy to announce that my department now turned this implicit policy into an explicit hiring policy, effective since May 2018: The department’s steering committee unanimously voted for an explicit policy to always include this (or a similar) statement to all future professorship job advertisements.

It is the task of the appointment committee to value the existing open science activities as well as future commitments of applicants appropriately. By including this statement, our department aims to communicate core values of good scientific practice and to attract excellent researchers who aim for transparent and credible research.

In this respect, take a look at the current draft of a Modular Certification Initiative (initiated by Chris Chambers, Kyle MacDonald and me, with a lot of input from the open science community). With this TOP-like scheme,  institutions, but also single researchers, can select a level of openness which they require in their hiring process.

So, if you want to join the LMU psychology department as a professor, you should better have some open science track record.

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