December 10, 2015 – Press Release

Winners of Inaugural Social Science
Transparency Prizes Announced

Leamer-Rosenthal Prize Seeks to Promote Open Social Science

BERKELEY, CA (December 10, 2015) – There are a lot of reasons to think that science is broken, not the least of which are errors and poor documentation, questionable ethics, and other misconduct. But, we also know that good science is possible, and is capable of producing evidence to inform policies that improve people’s lives. For this reason, good science is important, even if it’s really, really hard to do.

The good news is that there are social scientists doing outstanding research today. And it’s not just that their research topics are important – it’s the way they’re conducting their research, with commitments to the basic scientific values of openness, integrity, and transparency.

To recognize these efforts, this week the Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences (BITSS) announces the winners of a new prize. The Leamer-Rosenthal Prizes for Open Social Science, supported by the John Templeton Foundation, are named for economist Edward E. Leamer (UCLA) and psychologist Robert Rosenthal (UC Riverside) – academic pioneers who laid the foundation for open social science.

Two categories of prizes are being awarded: the Emerging Researchers Prize, which awards early-career researchers – junior faculty, postdoctoral researchers or graduate students – who adopt transparent research practices or pioneer new methods to increase the rigor of research; and the Leaders in Education Prize, which awards the work of professors who incorporate instruction in transparent practices in social science research into their curricula.

“The Leamer-Rosenthal Prizes recognize work that should be encouraged and rewarded,” said Edward Miguel, PhD, Professor of Economics at UC Berkeley and Faculty Director of the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA), which hosts BITSS. “It is critical that we acknowledge the importance of transparency in social science research design and implementation, as this research shapes policy, informs opinion and influences societal practices and norms.”

Fifty-one nominations for the inaugural prize competition were received. David Broockman, Joshua Kalla, and Peter Aronow are among the prize recipients. They made a splash earlier this year for their attempt to replicate a study on attitudes toward same-sex marriage. Their review led to the discovery that data used in the original study may have been falsified. The study was subsequently retracted by Science magazine. Senior academics have recognized their courage in going public with their findings, an act that can be risky for young researchers.

They join seven other prize recipients, including J. Scott Long, a distinguished professor who has published extensively and taught research transparency principles and techniques to undergraduate and graduate students for more than eight years; Eva Vivalt, founder of AidGrade, a non-profit research institute that conducts open, real-time meta-analyses of economic development program evaluations; and Etienne LeBel, founder of CurateScience, a web application that enables researchers to verify others’ scientific results. The complete list of 2015 Leamer-Rosenthal Prize winners can be viewed here.

Each individual or group winner will receive a prize of $10,000.

“We’re at a critical moment in the social sciences where we need real leadership on transparency. BITSS’ inaugural class of Leamer-Rosenthal prize recipients show that scholars of all ages can be the leaders that we need,” said Arthur Lupia, PhD, Hal R. Varian Collegiate Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan and co-founder of DA-RT (Data Access and Research Transparency).

Looking ahead, BITSS will also be funding new research that promotes innovation in meta-research (i.e., the study of research practices) and strengthens the reliability and validity of research findings. Through its Social Science Meta-Analysis and Research Transparency (SSMART) grant program, BITSS is already financing a pipeline of ten research programs, with results expected in late 2016.

Both the Leamer-Rosenthal Prizes and SSMART recipients will be presented at the BITSS Annual Meeting December 10-11, 2015.