Scientists Increasingly Likely To Share Results Before Publication

The increasingly open and transparent nature of academic research is something I’ve touched upon many times on this blog in recent years.  Further evidence of this general trend has emerged via the launch of MNI Open Research, a new platform for the publication of neuroscience research.

The platform aims to facilitate open and transparent peer-review, with all of the data used in the studies published, including null results, so that other researchers can avoid duplication, and also test the replicability of research.

Or you’ve got a second platform, called Wellcome Open Research, which is based upon F1000 technology and aims to speed up the publishing of research outputs in open and transparent ways.

The site is based upon a model of immediate publication, which is then followed by open peer review.  It allows researchers to publish a range of content types, whether traditional articles or datasets, negative findings or methodologies.

Open science

A recent study suggests that researchers are increasingly open to such ways of working.  It surveyed several thousand active researchers from around the world to understand whether they disclosed their results prior to publication.  The results showed that over half currently did, with most revealing that they did so in order to gain feedback from their peers.

The study went on to reveal that the disciplines most likely to engage in pre-publication disclosure were the social sciences and mathematics, with the least likely disciplines engineering and computer science.  The authors believe their work provides valuable insight into not just how many researchers share their work, but at what stage, and indeed why they do so when they do.

A major concern expressed in the study was the risk of being scooped by rivals if their data is shared ahead of publication.  Despite this, some 67% of respondents reported that they disclose their work prior to publication.

One project that aims to support open disclosure aims to tap into peer pressure to do so.  The venture, called the Peer Reviewers’ Openness Initiative, aims to encourage the sharing of data through the collective action of peer reviewers.

Under the scheme, academics are encouraged to only peer review papers from authors who have openly shared their content, or at least provided a very good reason for not doing so.

“It can feel like a burden at first, but there are many online tools to help with open science. Once I became familiar with these practices, these skills are simple to implement as a usual part of my analysis pipeline,” the team say.

“I’m excited to get on board with this open science movement as much as possible early in my career. My most recently submitted paper will be fully accessible, including all related raw data, analysis scripts and paradigm code open source, so my results are reproducible.” they continue.

Collective action

The team believe that the key to changing research behavior is to mobilize the collective endeavors of reviewers.  They suggest that openness should become a central part of the analysis done when researchers peer reviewer the work of their colleagues.

Researchers are encouraged to sign up to the website, with several hundred already having pledged their name to the initiative.  With the latest research, it strongly suggests that the open research movement is gathering pace, and with it the number of tools to support open science will surely flourish too.  It’s a very pleasing and welcome trend to watch.