Open Science: Aligning Values and Practices Via a Social Nudge

There is a social movement afoot in the sciences. And like most social movements transparency will play a critical role in the call for change.  It has become evident through highly publicized scandals and data typos that the scientific method is not flawless (duh). But while the spotlight is on, perhaps it is a good time to work toward changes in the way we as scientists publish our work.

In an effort to improve our methodologies and ensure the most efficient check on our peers, many have pushed to make data and materials open and preregistration ubiquitous. There are now many tools and databases designed to help make science more open, but there is little incentive for researchers to use these tools. After all the best that comes from participating in open science initiatives is perhaps a pat on the back from a colleague behind closed doors. There is of course the fact that it will help science stay true on it’s course toward that never quite reachable goal, truth. But that is too abstract. This compared to the downside which hinges your reputation (or career) on one misplaced data point, or worse, the exposure of your statistical inadequacies to world, or even worse, outing your fraudulence. So while most scientists would say they want to join the open science movement, and recognize how such movements would benefit science as a whole, there isn’t much reason to take action (at least not if they want to keep their jobs).

So how do we encourage involvement? One step in the right direction is to shout from the rooftops acknowledging those scientists publishing with open practices. Let people know who the good samaritan scientists are through publicly visible honorary distinctions. Nothing like good old peer pressure to nudge people in the right direction. The Open Science Collaboration (OSC) is working to do just this through their Badges to Acknowledge Open Data, Open Materials, and Preregistration. This innovative project is gaining traction as thousands of researches push their universities and publishers to put this open science reward system into action. I think it is time for scientists to act collectively in a push for more transparency. As OSC fearlessly strives to “increase the alignment between scientific values and scientific practices,” let’s join them in their effort by contacting colleagues and superiors to let them know we support our institutions using badges for open science.

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