Reflections from three years of Leamer-Rosenthal… and considerations for the future of open social science!

“I didn’t do my work for money or prizes – but for the excitement of discovery” – Edmund Phelps (Economist)

BITSS recently announced the 2017 Leamer-Rosenthal Prize Recipients. The eight recipients, as well as the larger pool of nominees, are part of a growing movement in social science to practice better science, using and creating new tools for open science. Many of these innovative scientists have been doing this work for years, far before it was a hot topic, and even when it was controversial or potentially disruptive to their own careers.

Much like our post on SSMART, we thought we’d share the basic metrics on the Leamer-Rosenthal Prize nominations and recipients across three rounds of selection from 2015-2017:

  • There were a total of 137 nominations considered, with 52 in Round 1, 44 in Round 2, and 41 [1] in Round 3. Of the total nominations, 75% were in the Emerging Researchers category and 25% in the Leaders in Education category.
  • 28 individuals (10 in 2015, 10 in 2016, and 8 in 2017) were competitively selected by external, independent review committees for a Leamer-Rosenthal Prize, awarding a total of $280K.
  • For the three core social science disciplines, psychology was strongly represented. 41% of nominations and 39% of recipients came from psychology; 15% of nominations and 21% of recipients came from political science, and 15% of nominations and 11% of recipients came from economics.
  • Interestingly, 18% of nominations and 25% of recipients come from an “Other” category, largely reflecting interdisciplinary contributions from statistics, intervention science, and data science.
  • BITSS also aimed for gender balance across recipients, when possible. Reflecting that BITSS faces the same challenges discussed here, 27% of nominations and 33% of recipients are female social scientists – another reminder that more work is needed to foster gender balance in our research efforts and open science more broadly!
  • Nominated individuals represented 18 countries, with the largest percentage coming from the US (61% of nominations and 57% of recipients) and Europe (19% of nominations and 25% of recipients).

One point we do want to reflect on – we saw the L-R prizes as not only a way to award innovators and scholars in this area, but also a way to expand our originally small BITSS community. After all, you don’t know who you don’t know. To do this, we allowed individuals to nominate themselves or others with minimal documentation required, and relied on external, independent review committees of non-BITSS staff [2] to ensure high quality review of nominations.

And there is no doubt we succeeded here. When we launched the prizes, our BITSS community consisted of about 100 Twitter followers and a few blog subscribers – we’re now at well over 1,500 followers and subscribers! Several of the individuals recognized through the L-R prizes have become faculty at BITSS events, while other BITSS programs – such as SSMART and Catalyst – have helped build and support the work of junior scholars who have gone on to become L-R recipients themselves. This is a success story for BITSS.

And yes, there is a gap between the number of those who advocate and support open science and those who innovate and lead in open science – exemplified by the difference of more than 1,500 in our community and just over 130 nominations for these prizes. But we see this as motivation for BITSS as we continue our efforts around training, research, and advocacy. With the rapid expansion of the Catalyst network, we see that with the right community and financial support, this population continues to grow.

The L-R prizes have been an exciting program for BITSS to recognize the excellent work of leaders in the open science movement across disciplines, experience, and geography. But when we started the Prizes, we knew they couldn’t last forever in this form. Over the past three years, more attention has been brought to the credibility crisis (and now solutions to it!) through new research, good journalism, and other exciting mechanisms. Do we still need prizes to incentivize and recognize good research practices? Let us know your thoughts!


[1] To clarify, we received 58 nominations of 41 nominees – several nominees received multiple nominations.

[2] Please note, BITSS Faculty Director Edward Miguel was on the first review committee.

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