Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Scientific New Year’s Resolutions

Last year, I wrote an awful lot of blog posts about registered reports. My first New Year’s Resolution is to scale down my registered reports activism, which I start off by writing a blog post about my new year’s resolutions, where I’ll try hard not to mention registered reports more than 5 times.

Scientifically, last year was very successful for me, with the major event being a grant from the DFG, which will give me a full-time position until mid-2021 and the opportunity to work on my own project. This gives me my second New Year’s Resolution, which is to focus on the project that I’m supposed to be working on, and not to get distracted by starting any (or too many) new side projects.

Having a full-time job means I’ll have to somewhat reduce the amount of time I’ll spend on Open Science, compared to the past few years. However, Open Science is still very important to me: I see it as an integral part of the scientific process, and consequently as one of the things I should do as part of my job as a researcher. As a Freies Wissen Fellow, an ambassador of the Center for Open Science, and a member of the LMU Open Science Center, I have additional motivation and support in improving the openness of my own research and helping others to do the same. My third New Year’s Resolution is to start prioritising various Open Science projects.

In order to prioritise, I need to select some areas which I think are the most effective in increasing the openness of research. In my experience, talks and workshops are particularly effective (in fact, that’s how I became interested in Open Science). Last year, I gave talks as part of two Open Science Workshops (in Neuchâtel and Linz), and at our department, I organised an introduction to R (to encourage reproducible data analyses). The attendance of these workshops was quite good, and the attendees seemed very interested and motivated, which further supports my hypothesis about the efficiency of such events. I hope to hold more workshops this year: so far, I have one invitation for a workshop in Göttingen.

I still have two mentions of Registered Reports left for this blogpost (oops, just one now): as I think that they provide one of the most efficient ways to mitigate the biases that make a lot of psychological science non-replicable, I will continue trying to encourage journals to accept them as an additional publication format. I have explained why I think that this is important here, here, here, and here [in German], and how this can be achieved here and here. Please note that we’re still accepting signatures for the letters to editors and for an open letter, for more information see here.

As a somewhat less effective thing that I did in the previous years to support open science, I had signed all of my peer reviews. I am now wondering if it’s not doing more harm than good. Signing my reviews is a good way to force myself to stay constructive, but sometimes there really are mistakes in a paper that, objectively speaking, mean that the conclusions are wrong. One cannot blame authors for being upset at the reviewers for pointing this out – after all, we’ve all experienced this ourselves, and so many things depend on the number of publications. And, as much as I try to convince myself to see the review process is a constructive discussion between scientists, perhaps there is a good reason that peer review often happens anonymously, especially for an early career researcher.

As my fourth New Year’s Resolution, I will strongly reduce my use of Twitter compared to the last years. I’ve learned a lot through Twitter, especially about statistics and open science. Lately, however, I started feeling like a lot of the discussions are repeating; the Open Science community has grown since I joined Twitter, leading to interpersonal conflicts within this community that have little to do with the common goal of improving reproducibility and replicability of research. A few months ago, I’ve created a lurking account, where I will follow only a few reading researchers: this way, I can compulsively check Twitter without scrolling down endlessly, and I can keep up-to-date with any developments that are discussed in my actual field of research. So far, I really don’t have the feeling that I’m missing out, though I still check my old Twitter account occasionally, especially when I get notifications.

My fifth New Year’s Resolution is to continue learning, especially about programming and statistics. The more I learn, the more I realise how little I know. However, looking back, I also realise that I can now do things that I couldn’t even have dreamed of a couple of years ago, and it’s a nice feeling (and it substantially improves the quality of my work).

My final New Year’s Resolution goes both for my working life and for my personal life: Be nice: judge less, focus on the good things, not on the bad, take actions instead of complaining about things, be constructive in criticism. 

So here's to a good 2019! 

Oh, and I have one left: Please support Registered Reports!