Recipients of 2017 Leamer-Rosenthal Prizes for Open Social Science

The Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences (BITSS) awards eight prizes to researchers and educators demonstrating values and practices of openness and transparency in research.

BERKELEY, CA (Thursday, October 12, 2017) – The open science community has grown rapidly in recent years, partly in response to a series of newsworthy scandals involving fake results and irreproducible findings. In an effort to draw attention to the need for greater transparency and reproducibility in research, in 2015 a group of scientists established the Leamer-Rosenthal Prizes for Open Social Science as one of many responses to the “credibility crisis”.

Though the Prizes have been around for just two years, the issues of transparency (and attempts to address them) are decades old. One of the Prizes’ namesakes, psychologist Robert Rosenthal, wrote about the “file drawer problem” in 1979 to refer to the countless studies that go unpublished due to their statistically insignificant results. Just four years later, in 1983, economist Edward Leamer published a paper asking us to “…take the con out of econometrics.” It wasn’t until fairly recently, however, that social scientists mobilized as a community to take action.

Managed by the Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences (BITSS), the first two rounds of the Leamer-Rosenthal Prizes (in 2015 and 2016) recognized 17 researchers from universities and research institutes around the globe. These researchers have significantly advanced research transparency through their own practice, teaching of better research methods, and development of new tools for the broader scientific community.

This year, an interdisciplinary committee[1] reviewed 41* nominations from disciplines across the social sciences to select recipients in two categories: senior researchers who have led improvements in science education (Leaders in Education), and junior researchers who have advanced transparency through their work (Emerging Researchers). BITSS is pleased to announce the eight awards for 2017.

This year’s recipients in the Leaders in Education category are Dr. Daniel Lakens, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the Eindhoven University of Technology and widely recognized creator of the “Improving Your Statistical Inferences” online course; and Dr. Simine Vazire, Associate Professor of Psychology at University of California, Davis, co-founder and President of the Society for the Improvement of Psychological Science (SIPS) and Senior Editor of the journal Collabra: Psychology.

The six recipients in the Emerging Researchers category are:

Ms. Erica Baranski, a doctoral candidate in the University of California, Riverside Department of Psychology who has led demonstrations of the Open Science Framework, was involved in the Reproducibility Project: Psychology and two Many Labs projects, and co-authored a paper about the Open Science Badges;

Mr. Charles E. Ebersole, a doctoral candidate in the University of Virginia Department of Social Psychology, known in psychology for his leadership in two Many Labs projects and his involvement in the development of StudySwap, an online platform that facilitates replication and collaboration between researchers;

Mr. Ranjit Lall, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Government at Harvard University, whose work attempting to replicate 35 published studies both uncovered statistical inconsistencies in some and strengthened the claims of others;

Dr. Joshua Polanin, a Principal Researcher at American Institutes for Research, whose research has focused on meta-analytic transparency and reproducibility, as well as training other researchers on meta-analytic R packages;

Dr. Karthik Ram, a Senior Research Scientist at the Berkeley Institute for Data Science (BIDS) and co-founder of the rOpenSci project, whose more recent work has focused on developing open data tools and services; and

Ms. Soazic Elise Wang Sonne, a doctoral candidate at United Nations University – MERIT (UNU-MERIT) in the Department of Economics and Governance, who has led research transparency courses and trainings in Sub-Saharan Africa, Europe, and the U.S. reaching over 150 researchers since 2015.

Many recipients became involved in the research transparency movement as a result of frustration. They may have attempted to replicate a past study, or build on prior work, but felt stymied by a system that incentivizes both intentional and unintentional lack of transparency. Simine Vazire gives an eloquent summary of the biggest barriers to open science:

“It’s human nature to want to be right and look good and make a living. Right now there’s a lot more reward for finding what you predicted (or predicting what you found) and getting surprising, extraordinary results than for getting results that are robust.”

Fortunately, for a growing number of researchers, frustration seems to have given way to a more optimistic, yet grounded, perspective. When asked what excites him most about being involved in the move toward reproducibility, Charles Ebersole stated, “…now we have the technology, community, and energy to create lasting improvements in research practice and culture.”

Mr. Ebersole also points out a valuable insight: open science isn’t just about transparency and reproducibility. The movement has spawned a small but growing scientific culture that values crowdsourcing, sharing, and collaboration. Developers of open science software, who may have started with tools to detect misconduct or statistical inconsistencies, are now creating platforms to make working together easier – all in the name of doing better science.

The 2017 Leamer-Rosenthal Prizes will be formally awarded at the 2017 BITSS Annual Meeting. After the awards ceremony, a panel of the 2017 recipients will discuss their perspectives on the state and future of transparency in social science, as well as their roles in the movement. Past prize recipients will also be in attendance. The Annual Meeting takes place December 5-6 at the Bancroft Hotel in Berkeley, California and is open to the public. An agenda is forthcoming. RSVP to attend here.

Read more about the recipients here.


*Note: BITSS received 58 nominations for 41 individuals.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this press release noted that recipient Charles Ebersole was the creator of StudySwap. He was involved in StudySwap’s initial conception, but the platform’s development was made possible by a team of members.

About BITSS: The Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences (BITSS) works to strengthen the integrity of social science research and evidence used for policy-making. Established by the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA) in 2012, BITSS leads trainings in research transparency and reproducibility, conducts and funds meta-research, provides funding for curriculum development, and promotes tools that advance open science. The Leamer-Rosenthal Prizes were conceived as a platform to elevate innovative work and realign incentives toward more open, reproducible science.

[1] The review committee selected these recipients from a pool of 58 nominations from seventeen disciplines and sub-disciplines, and ten countries. The 2017 Review Committee includes Lorena Barba (George Washington University), C.K. Gunsalus (University of Illinois), Erik Sørensen (Norwegian School of Economics), Katherine Casey (Stanford University), Dan Posner (UCLA), Sacha Epskamp (University of Amsterdam), Bobbie Spellman (University of Virginia), Sean Grant (RAND Corporation), Elaine Toomey (National University of Ireland Galway), and Stephanie Wykstra (Independent Consultant).

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