Open science is more robust science

This month, we would like to touch on a ‘hot topic’ in scientific research, the Open Science Movement, which has gained a lot of momentum over the past few years.

Never heard of it before? Neither had some of us, until some of our supervisors asked to use the Open Science Framework for a research project.

If you are already familiar with the principles of Open Science and want to know how you can apply them to your own research, check out our Best Practice Guide and especially the section on preregistering your research.

What is Open Science?

The term ‘Open Science’ generally means practicing science in a way that enables contribution and collaboration from others, for example by making research data, analysis code, lab notes, and other material freely available. The goal of open science is to reproduce, re-use and re-distribute the research, including methods, material, and data.

Unfortunately, the current academic incentive structure tends to support ‘closed’ science due to misaligned incentive structures. The traditional measure of scientific productivity is the number of publications in high impact factor journals. The number of citations and publications one has, often determines who gets funding for what, and who gets hired or promoted. Open science is disincentivised because the time a scientist invests making their work 'open', e.g. time spent clarifying their analysis code, likely doesn't help them get a paper published...

But there is hope! Some universities, such as LMU Munich in Germany, have now implemented Open Science practices as part of their hiring criteria, and some journals are mandating sharing of data and materials in order to submit. If more and more institutions around the world follow in their footsteps, then the prediction of physicist Michael Nielsen’s prediction may come true: "The process of scientific discovery – how we do science – will change more over the next 20 years than in the past 300 years".

Why should you care about Open Science?

Researchers advocating for Open Science argue it improves the robustness, validity and transparency of research. Open Science facilitates in-depth peer review as well as enabling better replications. It has been argued that only through Open Science can the most complex scientific questions be answered, as they are often too extensive to be answered by a single research team. Besides, it seems reasonable that publicly funded research ought to be accessible to the public.

If you want to learn more about this topic, then we recommend these sources for further reading:

  1. Nosek, B. A., Alter, G., Banks, G. C., Borsboom, D., Bowman, S. D., Breckler, S. J., ... & Contestabile, M. (2015). Promoting an open research culture. Science, 348(6242), 1422-1425.
  2. Munafò, M. R., Nosek, B. A., Bishop, D. V., Button, K. S., Chambers, C. D., du Sert, N. P., ... & Ioannidis, J. P. (2017). A manifesto for reproducible science. Nature Human Behaviour, 1(1), 1-9.
  3. Couchman, J. R. (2014). Peer review and reproducibility. Crisis or time for course correction? Journal of Histochemistry and Cytochemistry, 62, 9–10.
  4. Nielsen, M. (2011). Reinventing discovery: The new era of networked science. Princeton University Press.

What is the Open Science Framework (OSF)?

The Open Science Framework (OSF) is an open source website facilitating the collaboration of scientific research, mainly (but not only) in the field of Psychology.

It allows you to manage all aspects of a research project online, from sharing files and data to pre-printing research papers. Importantly, it allows your fellow researchers to access the project and collaborate with you. Lastly, OSF lets you preregister your research. Simply put, this means that you specify your research questions, methods and hypotheses before collecting your data, to ensure and demonstrate that you are not engaging in questionable research practices, such as Hypothesizing After Results are Known (also known as HARKing).

How does Prolific contribute to Open Science?

Currently, Prolific’s contribution to Open Science is threefold:

  1. We try to provide information and resources about Open Science, for example through this post and our Best Practice Guide on how to do great research.
  2. Prolific supports the principles of Open Science by being as transparent as possible ourselves, for example regarding our pricing, data quality (see this and this post), or regarding our participant pool.
  3. We actively incentivize transparent researcher behavior, for example through our brand new Junior Researcher Grant Scheme!

What do you think about Open Science?

We would love to hear what your experiences with Open Science have been. Please let us know below in the comment section, or by responding to our social media posts:

  • What are your experiences with OSF or other platforms?
  • What are your experiences with preregistration? Has anything gone terribly awry, or was anything surprisingly awesome?
  • What are your thoughts on Open Science in general? Is this the future way of doing research? Will it eventually help to overcome the reproducibility crisis in various fields of research?
  • How do you think Prolific could further support Open Science? (e.g., how many would be in favor of integrating Prolific with OSF in one way or another?)
  • What can/should universities do to promote and incentivize Open Science?
  • What can/should journals do to promote and incentivize Open Science?

Come discuss this blog post with our community!

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