The Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences (BITSS) is pleased to announce the recipients of our first round of competitively selected Catalyst grants! Over the next year, 12 BITSS Catalysts will carry out 8 projects in 10 countries, holding conferences, workshops, and summer schools, and developing curriculum for both traditional coursework and online learning.
The Catalyst Program formalizes a network of professionals to advance the teaching, practice, funding, and publishing of transparent and reproducible social science research. It connects and empowers individuals to create change in their own classrooms, universities, and networks, mobilizing far-reaching change to transform scientific norms to ultimately make social science research more reproducible and reliable.
Since the program’s inception two years ago, BITSS has identified 41 academics and research practitioners working in 17 countries (across five continents!) as promising leaders in the open science movement. Three of these Catalysts – Zacharie Tsala Dimbuene, Elise Wang Sonne, and Nancy Padian – have already held a number of workshops and seminars on research transparency and reproducibility. You can read about Dr. Tsala Dimbuene’s workshop at the University of Kinshasa on the BITSS blog here and Elise Wang Sonne’s workshops in Cameroon, South Africa, the UK, and OpenCon in DC here.
BITSS is also excited to announce that we still have funds left for two to three more projects! We are accepting proposals from designated Catalysts until we fully commit all available funds. Interested in becoming a BITSS Catalyst? Apply for the program here.
We’ll post more information about individual Catalyst events as the projects move forward. Stay tuned!
Read about each Catalyst project below.
Introducing the Transparent and Reproducible Research Paradigm in Ugandan Higher Institutions of Learning
Catalysts: Jayne Byakika-Tusiime (Busitema University) and Saint Kizito Omala (Makerere University)
Locations: Universities across Uganda (final locations TBA)
The concept of transparent and reproducible research is not known, nor appreciated, by researchers in Uganda and many other developing countries. There is usually delayed adoption of new knowledge and technologies in developing countries because of the slower flow of information in these regions. The concept of transparent and reproducible research is still relatively new even in the developed world and almost unknown in the developing world. As Catalysts of this paradigm shift, we wish to introduce this concept in Uganda. Groundbreaking research, especially in health has been done in Uganda and much more research continues to be done. However, the practice of transparent and reproducible is non-existent. We thus propose to start in Uganda a project to train 500 established and upcoming researchers in conducting transparent and reproducible research.
Our target population will be graduate and undergraduate students from 30 universities in Uganda, as well as faculty of both public and private universities that train students in research disciplines where theses, dissertations or journal article publications are required for either degree award or promotion. The objective of the project will be to sensitize and create awareness about conducting transparent and reproducible research. Specifically, we shall conduct ten regional workshops across Uganda. Following this introduction, we plan to design course modules to incorporate into existing academic programs at the participating universities.
We will develop a core of teaching material around transparency and reproducibility that can be incorporated into graduate courses across the social sciences at UCSD. This project will draw on the library of materials from BITSS as well as from faculty at UCSD and the tools developed through the Policy Design and Evaluation Lab (PDEL)’s Data Replication service to create a one-week short course that can be deployed across courses. Our goal is to educate every new social science PhD student at UCSD about the importance of transparency and replicable research and empower them to incorporate transparency practices in their research from their first quarter at UCSD. Curricula will be made available on the BITSS library of educational materials as an alternative to the full semester course, and encourage the development of a set of discipline-specific add-on modules.
After completing the module, students will understand the importance of transparency for the scientific enterprise, they will recognize the institutional and incentive challenges to replicable research, they will be empowered with appropriate tools to adopt replicable practices, and they will understand the career costs and benefits of transparency.
Fostering Transparency in Government Institutions and Higher Education: A Research and Teaching Initiative
Catalysts: Dalson Figueiredo (Federal University of Pernambuco) and Nicole Janz (University of Nottingham)
Locations: University of Nottingham, UK; Recife, Brazil; Brasilia, Brazil
We find research findings resulting from data that is not publicly accessible to not be credible. Similarly, governments withholding administrative information should not be trusted. We argue that the lack of government and research transparency are connected, and can be tackled in by offering training on reproducibility. This project aims to foster transparency in scholarly research and in government institutions. In particular, we will conduct educational workshops that will leverage insights that have been used to increase governmental and research transparency in the UK to improve transparency in Brazil. Our target groups are 100 undergraduate and graduate students, 20 scholars, and 20 bureaucrats. The project will strengthen research skills and transparency norms that can contribute to scientific innovation, development, and social welfare. The first workshop will be part of a day-long conference: “The Gold Standard of Reproducible Research” at the University of Nottingham on March 9, 2017.
Development of a Graduate Public Health Online Course in Research Integrity, Transparency, and Reproducibility
Catalyst: Dennis Gorman (Texas A&M University)
Location: Texas A&M University, USA
There is now a growing recognition within the scientific community that flexibility in study design, data analysis, and the reporting of research findings is increasingly leading to the publication of misleading results that capitalize on chance and cannot be replicated. It has been suggested that the use of such practices, if not made apparent in a manuscript describing the results of a study, is a form of research misconduct. There is little doubt that the widespread use of such practices undermines the integrity of a scientific field as they produce a body of non-reproducible, random findings. Both epidemiology and general public health are among the fields of research in which questions have been raised about research integrity, transparency, and reproducibility.
This course will examine various threats to the integrity of research, the professional and organizational factors that produce these threats, and the solutions that have been suggested to improve research quality (such as registered reports, open data, and team of rivals). Upon completion of the course, students should have the ability to differentiate research that is conducted with integrity and capable of producing valid and reproducible findings from research that is conducted without integrity and produces chance results that are trivial and non-reproducible. Students should also have the ability to incorporate practices into their own research that will increase its transparency and ensure it is conducted with integrity.
Disseminating Research Transparency in Perú, Bolivia, and Chile
Catalyst: Fernando Hoces de la Guardia (Pardee RAND Graduate School)
Locations: Peru; Bolivia; Chile (final locations TBA)
The goal of this project is to bring to the attention of the academic communities in Peru, Bolivia, and Chile the recent developments in science regarding transparency and openness. This will be done in a two-fold format. First, a seminar-style talk will present the key issues (the reproducibility crisis, specification searching, and publication bias) and its solutions (pre-registrations, the TOP guidelines, and other tools for reproducible research). Second, a day-long workshop aimed at students will present the main tools for reproducible research (including R, Dynamic Documents, Git, and OSF). Increasing the scope of the research transparency community to this region can have additional benefits as it would bring highly talented researchers and students to elements of frontier research that are usually undisclosed in published papers.
Research Transparency in the Social Sciences Workshop, Second Edition
Catalyst: Zacharie Tsala Dimbuene (University of Kinshasa)
Location: University of Kinshasa (The Democratic Republic of the Congo)
Research Transparency is gaining attention in the scientific community around the world, including the United States, European countries, and Anglophone countries in sub-Saharan Africa; yet the concept is quite a “new world” in Francophone Africa. In my efforts to advance the movement in Francophone Africa, I successfully delivered the first Research Transparency Workshop at the University of Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of the Congo). This project is intended to sustain previous efforts to set up “Research Transparency in the Social Sciences” as a culture in the next generation of social scientists in Francophone Africa.
I will offer a training workshop for 60 graduate students, research staff, and professors at the University of Kinshasa to promote best practices for reproducible research with concrete guidance about how to make materials understandable for publication. The activities to be addressed during the workshop will include (1) organizing file structure; (2) creating understandable variable labels and value codes, as well as connecting variables to survey instruments through consistent labels and codebook creation; (3) version control of code and data; and (4) creating and maintaining documentation files about the survey and data, as well as data cleaning steps.
Development and implementation of a short course in Open Science
Catalyst: Arnaud Vaganay (London School of Economics (LSE))
Locations: Utrecht, Netherlands; Essex, UK; London School of Economics, UK
I will coordinate a multi-site, university-accredited, and extra-curricular summer course in Open Science to be held at the Utrecht Summer School, Essex Summer School, and LSE Summer School. This course will build on existing materials and programs (including those of BITSS and COS), has been endorsed by the Center for Open Science, and will provide ECTS credits to students taking an optional exam. The exam is being developed with Thomas Leeper (Assistant Professor in Political Behaviour at LSE) who will also assist in teaching the course at LSE.
The course aims to develop the perspectives, knowledge, and skills researchers need to make their research more open, i.e. more transparent and reproducible. Upon completion of the course, students will be able to (1) define open science and evaluate the openness of current research; (2) discuss the main drivers and obstacles to openness and critically assess solutions; (3) implement fundamental open science practices in their own workflows; and (4) apply these skills through the use of open science software and apps. Each course will target 20 graduate students and early career researchers.
Best Practices of Openness for African Researchers and Research Transparency Workshops at Three Social Science Conferences
Catalyst: Elise Wang Sonne (United Nations University – MERIT) and Dief Reagen Nochi Faha (University of Yaoundé II, Soa, Cameroon)
Locations: University of Dschang, Cameroon; UNU-MERIT, Maastricht, Netherlands; Population Association for America, Chicago, IL; LSE-Africa Summit, London School of Economics, London, UK
This project will communicate best practices for openness and reproducibility in research. We will hold a workshop for African researchers at the University of Dschang in Cameroon, focusing on sensitizing researchers to the necessity of avoiding academic research misconduct such as p-hacking, publication bias, and failure to replicate, but also on data management practices in Stata. A series of workshops will also be held for public policy graduate students, demographers, sociologists, economists, and public health professionals in the Netherlands, USA, and the UK. In addition to sensitizing researchers to the necessity of avoiding academic research misconduct and data management practices, these workshops will also include trainings on Github, the Open Science Framework, Project TIER, and Dynamic Documents using StatTag and Markdoc.
 Proposals were reviewed by a Review Committee of research transparency experts from diverse fields, including two external reviewers and one internal BITSS reviewer.