Diary of a Research Transparency Postdoc: South America Tour

Fernando Hoces de la Guardia – BITSS Postdoctoral Scholar

I joined BITSS in September as its first postdoc and was excited to hit the ground running with a series of events to promote research transparency in Latin America. Through partnerships with local universities, we managed to organize back-to-back seminars in Chile, Peru and Bolivia. We followed the (more or less) standard structure of a BITSS 2-day workshop format: a day 1 lecture on the crisis facing social science research and how the movement toward more open science has started to address some crucial problems in this crisis, and then dove into a hands-on workshop on day 2 to showcase the toolkits of open science (Registries, Open Science Framework, Dynamic Documents, and Git/Version Control) .

We started in Santiago, Chile (Oct. 5 and 6) at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. Through a partnership with the Center for Longitudinal Surveys and the School of Government, we had diverse audience from academia and government ranging from students to senior key stakeholders like representatives from the Ministries of Finance and Labor. Throughout the seminar there was an active conversation and I was pleased to see the engagement and positive reception particularly from government representatives. For example, as Chile enters a new heated debate about its pension system, researchers and analysts in the audience expressed interest about implementing practices for transparency and reproducibility into their analyses.

Next up was Lima (Oct. 9 and 10) at Universidad de Piura. There we partnered with the Lima School of Economics and an audience mainly of students and young researchers.  During this workshop, we discussed how practices of research transparency not only make science better, but also bring the frontier of knowledge closer to students and researcher who are farther from elite research hubs in the developed world. As it was pointed out, free access to tools, like the OSF and the AEA registry, allows students and researchers to understand not just the “tip of the iceberg” presented in a published paper, but the whole product of a research endeavour.

Last but not least, came La Paz (Oct. 11 and 12) through a partnership  with Universidad de La Salle. This was our largest crowd, composed mainly by researchers, analysts, and officials from multiple organizations like the UNDP-Bolivia and local think tanks. There were similar themes with the previous events (for example: “Great, but how do we align incentives to do the right thing?”, “Where can I learn more?!”). Additionally a new and interesting benefit for research transparency was proposed. Bolivia is currently under a heavily polarized political environment, where both government and the opposition accused each other of manipulating different policy reports. In this context it was encouraging to hear from analysts on both side of the aisle that practices of research transparency can provide a more fertile starting point for a more constructive debate, and also shed light on potential misconduct.

All in all, it was a fantastic experience. My impression is  that researchers and students in each country were receptive, if not more, to the issues of research transparency than what I have witnessed here in the US. Particularly given the enthusiastic reception in Mexico during an earlier BITSS workshop, this experience reassured my belief that enthusiasm for research transparency and more open science is a global phenomenon, and that people are highly receptive to solutions that bring science closer to its ideal normative standards.

P.S. Here are links to each event page and local press release (in Spanish): Chile (Event, Press); Peru (Event, Press);  Bolivia (Event, Press).

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