BITSS Flagship Open Science Training Gets a Boost

Introduction from BITSS: Today on the BITSS blog, BITSS Communications Intern Brian Lee announces a new NIA grant that invests in open science and transparency efforts across the social sciences. 

Participants discussing concepts in open science during the 2019 RT2. | BITSS

One of the biggest barriers to the widespread adoption of research transparency tools and practices—and ultimately the credibility of social science research—is the availability of high-quality, inclusive, and accessible open science training. Since 2014, the Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences (BITSS) has developed a curriculum with resources and materials that introduce students from a wide range of backgrounds to the latest tools and approaches for driving more credible and transparent social science research.

These immersive Research Transparency and Reproducibility (RT2) trainings, typically held in person over three days, drive awareness about threats to scientific credibility and introduce a range of tools and practices — like pre-registration, pre-analysis plans, data management and de-identification, version control, meta-analysis, systematic reviews, transparency, and computational reproducibility — to minimize the threats. Feedback from participants indicates that RT2 trainings offer significant value to the social science research community, as few academic (let alone non-academic) institutions offer learning resources of this kind. As of 2022, BITSS has hosted ten RT2 trainings, reaching over 400 social science researchers from around the world. Last year’s training, held over Zoom, included participants from 45 institutions in 23 countries. 

Today, BITSS is delighted to announce that a new grant from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will extend the RT2 trainings for five more years. The NIA grant will support an enhanced short course for graduate students and early career researchers designed to strengthen the integrity of aging-focused behavioral and social science research (BSSR). We will begin by adapting the RT2 curriculum and resources for application to topics related to aging; for example, by enhancing the curriculum’s suitability for the interdisciplinary, observational, longitudinal, and qualitative methods often used in aging research. BITSS is excited to work with hundreds of new researchers tackling important questions related to aging and the health and well-being of older communities through this work. 

Importantly, the NIA grant will also enable BITSS to continue our flagship Catalyst Program, which facilitates the long-term adoption of technical and transferable skills by providing small grants to champions of open science who are advancing the teaching, practice, funding, and publishing of transparent social science research. To date, BITSS has supported 159 leaders in the open science movement at 101 institutions in 30 countries. BITSS will continue to provide funding and guidance to these leaders to help them integrate new practices related to aging into their research and teaching activities. 

Finally, BITSS will continue to build off prior work to measure changes in research norms and practices by eliciting self-reported use of pre-registration, pre-analysis plans, data and code management and sharing, version control, and reporting. Through interviews with randomly selected participants, we will constantly collect and adapt to qualitative data about participant perspectives on the process of and barriers to adoption, using our newfound increase in trainings and funding to help improve open science.

This NIH grant marks an important step forward in the widespread acknowledgement and incorporation of open science practices across the social sciences. We are thrilled to work with the community of researchers focused on topics related to aging, and look forward to spreading open science to a wider audience.

Brian Lee
majors in Political Science (with a focus on International Relations) and minors in Hispanic Studies as a junior at Columbia University. Expected to graduate in 2024, he is interested in exploring the intersection between public policy and political theory with data analytics and social science research.

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