First Swedish Graduate Student Training in Transparency in the Social Sciences

Guest Post by Anja Tolonen (University of Gothenburg, Sweden)


Seventeen excited graduate students in Economics met at the University of Gothenburg, a Monday in September, to initiate an ongoing discussion about transparency practices in Economics. The students came from all over the world: from Kenya, Romania, Hong Kong, Australia and Sweden of course. The initiative itself also came from across an ocean too: Berkeley, California. The students had different interests within Economics: many of us focus on Environmental or Development Economics but there were also Financial Economists and Macroeconomists present.

The teaching material, which was mostly based on material from the first Summer Institute, organized by BITSS in June 2014, quickly prompted many questions. “Is it feasible to pre-register analysis on survey data?”, “Are graduate students more at risk of P-hacking than their senior peers?”, “Are some problems intrinsic to the publishing industry?” and “Does this really relate to my field?” several students asked. Some students think yes:

As I am interested in macro/finance, the idea of ‘preannouncing’ the Bayesian prior seemed to be a particularly good idea, as in Bayesian analysis, you can get very different results by adjusting the prior and the choice of the prior is almost completely arbitrary (Tamás Kiss, first-year Ph.D. candidate from Hungary).

Students think about pre-registering and note that knowing about pre-registration can be a means of assessing the reliability of others’ research:

This information gives me insights in selecting reliable literature and understanding whether their significant results are possibly driven by the change of research plans upon collection of data (Debbie Lau, first-year Ph.D. candidate from Hong Kong).

The four hour session was soon over, but the seeds for more transparency have been planted in these young researchers’ minds and will hopefully grow and prosper in the years to come.

unnamedAbout the author: Anja Tolonen is a fifth-year PhD candidate in Economics at the University of Gothenburg. She is currently a short-term consultant at the World Bank and has recently been a visiting scholar at the UC Berkeley and at the University of Oxford. She attended the first Research Transparency Summer Institute, organized by BITSS in June 2014, and arranged a seminar on the topic when she came back to Sweden. To learn more about Tolonen’s work visit