"Creating tools is not the biggest challenge. The biggest challenge is getting people to use them"

Brian Nosek, Perspective from Psychology

This is the third post of a video series in which we ask leading social science academics and experts to discuss research transparency in their discipline. The interview was recorded on December 13, 2013 at the University of California, Berkeley.

Full Transcript:

My name is Brian Nosek. I am on the Faculty at the University of Virginia, in the Department of Psychology. I am also Director of the Center for Open Science. The Center has a mission of increasing openness, integrity and reproducibility of scientific research. We are essentially a non-profit technology start-up, building tools and providing researchers with the ability to do open transparent research if they would like while supporting their workflow from the conception of ideas all the way through publication.

What is the biggest challenge today in research transparency?

Creating tools is not the biggest challenge. The biggest challenge is getting people to use them. The reason is that researchers are busy. They have a workflow that they know and that works well for them. Asking them to do more is not a viable strategy for any new tool development or request to move people to openness and transparency. If researchers want to make the choice themselves to do it, it needs to be with tools that actually provide them value for how it is they work right now. That is the biggest challenge to solve. How do you integrate with the workflow that researchers have as they are doing it?

What is the Open Science Framework?

The Open Science Framework (OSF) is a web application that aims to increase researchers’ ease of archiving, maintaining and documenting their own data, material, and research process. It is meant to solve a problem that researchers face every day, which is: “Where is that stuff that I did one, two, three years ago? Can I get the material from these old projects?” This stuff is hard to keep track of because we have lots of collaborations, different people are contributing. OSF is a central source where people can store all their materials with their collaborators privately. What it enables is for researchers to then make that available publicly. It does not require them to do that, but it allows them to do it very easily in order to encourage openness and transparency.

How can BITSS help further research transparency?

What I like most about BITSS is the effort to find common solutions across what appear to be very different disciplines and problems. What I have found in conversations with people across the social sciences – but also through the life and natural sciences – is that everybody thinks that the problems of openness, transparency and reproducibility are unique to their discipline. And they will start to explain: “You haven’t seen this, let me tell you about this problem”. And it is the identical problem that is happening in other fields. Everybody has different terms, they might have different ways to get expressed, but the common core is the scientific process, and how individual scientists get rewarded for achieving in that process. It all comes down to publication. That is a commonality across the sciences for how scientists advance. So what I am most excited about for BITSS is this communication among these different disciplines in order to identify common solutions, rather than trying to reinvent the same solutions with ad-hoc strategies in different fields.