Métodos em Pauta: an initiative bringing transparency to Brazilian political science

Introduction from BITSS: In addition to being synonymous with research transparency and reproducibility, open science is also about building communities centered around collaboration and the exchange of knowledge. In this post, Catalysts Amanda Domingos and Rodrigo Lins share their experience establishing and leading Métodos em Pauta [Methods on the Agenda], a student-led initiative and podcast that looks to democratize discussions around open science in Brazilian political science. Enjoy the read!

What is Métodos em Pauta, and what are your goals? 

Métodos em Pauta (MeP) was created in November 2018, on a typical warm afternoon in Recife, Brazil, during a conversation in the break between classes. We discussed the need to change teachers’ approach to presenting research methods and techniques in classes, which seemed a little distant from the students’ questions. For example, there seems to be a “vicious cycle,” where students are required to take classes about the same techniques both in undergrad and graduate-level classes. We wanted to break that cycle. That same day, we decided to create an event “from students to students,” which would bring discussions about techniques and topics in which students were interested, and do it in a fluid format and with plenty of space for interaction.

On that day, we created the first MeP meeting, which took place in March 2019. Over two days, we discussed topics ranging from causal inference to qualitative data analysis techniques—all through the lenses of research transparency and open science. We had Nicole Janz, Dalson Figueiredo, and Norm Medeiros from Project TIER (via videoconference) in a roundtable discussion on open science.

Participants on the first day of the first Métodos em Pauta meeting in March 2019. Photo credits: Amanda Domingos and Rodrigo Lins

To our happiness (and quite a surprise!), the event was very well accepted by Recife’s social science academic community. We had over 90 participants and, even after the end of the meeting, we continued to receive positive feedback. And that was when the idea of turning it into an initiative came up. We decided to call it “Metodos em Pauta,” which translates roughly to “Methods on the Agenda” because its purpose was just that—to introduce new ideas at our department about research methods. 

Since then, we have joined forces with other collaborators, including Willber Nascimento, who recently received his PhD in Political Science, and Antônio Fernandes and Danillo Batista, both grad students in Political Science. During the initiative’s two years of existence, we have carried out various activities to democratize the discussion on quality in social research. We have hosted several round table discussions, talks, workshops, and even started a podcast (called PodMétodos, hosted by the two of us) to discuss research, methods, and transparency. 

Since 2019, we were able to spread MeP to other states in Brazil. E.g., we hosted a one-day meeting at Aracaju (500 km from Recife) to discuss open science with undergraduate students in social sciences and international relations. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we transitioned all of our activities online. In August 2020, we had a webinar called “Quarantine with Métodos em Pauta,” where we brought together scholars from all over Brazil to discuss social research topics.  With this event, we realized that students all over Brazil are interested in discussions about research methodology. That inspired our new project idea entitled “Drops,” where researchers will present research techniques in short videos (~ 20 min). The goal is to give space for researchers to share their work with the academic community and catalyze the spread of good analytical techniques. We expect to kick off this project later this year.

Our primary focus is undergraduate students. We believe that it is important for them to expose them to open science in their formative years. We hope that this will, in time, make Brazilian political science more open and transparent. However, this is not to say we do not talk to senior researchers. They play an important role in practicing reproducible research and setting an example for younger researchers. 

How did you and MeP become interested in open science?

We were both lucky to be Dalson Figueiredo’s (also a BITSS Catalyst) students, who introduced us to vital discussions in open science. With this background, it couldn’t be different: when we created MeP, we had also to include open science topics. (Fun fact: on the occasion of our first event, we were lucky enough to meet with Prof. Gary King in São Paulo, who kindly recorded the opening video of our first meeting—welcoming the participants and talking about inference and replication). 

From left to right: Nicole Janz, Dalson Figueiredo, Rodrigo Lins and Amanda Domingos during the first Métodos em Pauta meeting, in Recife in march 2019. Photo credits: Amanda Domingos and Rodrigo Lins

We have a strong commitment to the dissemination of open science topics in all our activities. In the first and second MeP meetings, we held at least one roundtable discussing transparency, replicability, and reproducibility. We also regularly discuss transparency tools in our workshops: over the years, we introduced the Open Science Framework (OSF) and the TIER Protocol, among other things, to undergraduate students in political science and international relations. They received the content very well! We have followed some of them closely and have seen that they continue to use the tools as they write their undergraduate theses.

We have also been conducting short courses at different institutions—presenting the problems surrounding the “credibility crisis” and introducing tools to deal with such issues. E.g., in 2019, we presented at a few private universities in Recife; in 2020, we debated with social science students at the Federal University of Alagoas, and this month, we will hold a one-week course on transparency in empirical research at the Federal University of Latin American Integration. We had special episodes to discuss transparency in PodMétodos, and, early this year, we had a webinar where we received Fernando Hoces de la Guardia to discuss Open Policy Analysis. We are also trying to expand beyond Brazilian borders. Besides Fernando’s participation in Spanish, we also had a webinar in English with Carl Henrik Knutsen (V-Dem and the University of Oslo) on different measures of democracy and how to use the V-Dem dataset.

Matheus Cunha presents on causal inference in corruption studies during a Métodos em Pauta meeting in Aracaju (Sergipe, Brazil) in December 2019. Photo credits: Amanda Domingos and Rodrigo Lins

What is your vision for MeP going forward?

We would like to see MeP become a platform to connect researchers across Brazil (and, perhaps, from other countries in the region) interested in Open Science. We believe that science is a built-in community. We believe that through open science communities, we can overcome regional disparities and make the academic community more diverse.

Finally, what have we learned from the MeP experience that could help other initiatives? First, we learned that young scholars are eager to learn about transparency. Second, we’ve noticed that it is important to have a space for open discussion outside of the universities. This is especially true for the Brazilian social sciences since the curriculum rarely includes this topic. Third, similar initiatives should not be worried about having institutional ties to get things going. If you have a small group of fellow researchers willing to collaborate, you should start your own initiative. This is how we can populate the academic world with “transparency-minded” researchers.

About the authors:

  • Amanda Domingos is co-director of Métodos em Pauta and a Political Science PhD student at the Federal University of Pernambuco. Her research interests are public policy, subnational and distributive politics, and transparency. She is a BITSS Catalyst and a 2017 Research Transparency and Reproducibility Training (RT2) London participant.
  • Rodrigo Lins is co-director of Métodos em Pauta and an adjunct professor at the Federal University of Sergipe and Estacio Recife. He holds a PhD in Political Science from the Federal University of Pernambuco. His research interests are comparative politics, democratization and survival of democracies, and transparency. He is also a BITSS Catalyst and a 2016 BITSS Summer Institute participant.

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