Why should I promote reproducibility? Doesn’t this distract me from my research? Here are four tangible benefits that show how being a data champion has helped my academic career.
At the recent conference “Engaging Researchers in Good Data Management” in Cambridge, a researcher at the University reported how he promotes good practice in data handling in his Department. An audience member asked: How have you benefited in your research and career from being a data champion?
The answer was somewhat vague: the data champion had not yet been doing this very long; and also, it is pretty difficult to show tangible benefits.
But the question is important – because caring about data is time consuming. I’ve been writing this blog since 2013. I’ve been developing and teaching a replication workshop for a several years. I’ve joined conference panels and organised workshops for better data handling. I’m also a catalyst at the Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences, and an ambassador at the Center for Open Science.
When I was still finishing up my PhD and doing my first teaching gig at Cambridge, I kept wondering if I’m really doing myself a favour spending so much time on these activities. But I’m noticing more and more now that being a data champion is not a distraction; it’s an important facet of my profile that has helped my academic career in many ways:
- Grant success: My project “Fostering Transparency in Government Institutions and Higher Education” has received funding from the British Academy. My collaborator in Brazil, Dalson Figueiredo, and I plan to foster transparency in Brazilian government institutions and in scholarly research. Brazil’s government lacks transparency in the dissemination of administrative data, particularly on corruption; and similarly, the majority of Brazilian social scientists do not provide access to their data. With a paper project on corruption (and new data that we will share), and transparency workshops for researchers and civil servants, we hope to change that. And we got the funding for it.
- Finding collaboration partners: When talking about reproducibility and data challenges, I often use my own research as an example. Many times I’ve been approached by researchers to collaborate on grants and articles surrounding my research topics – not just reproducibility promotion. For example, my Brazilian collaborator initially emailed me because of my work on transparency. We noticed that we have more common interests and we now work on corruption.
- More visibility: Writing and talking about reproducibility has resulted in many invitations to conference panels, workshops, summer schools and meetings. Sitting at an APSA, ISA or Royal Society conference panel to discuss reproducibility helps me to keep a visible profile. I also spent two months in Berkeley as a visiting scholar (enjoying the California sun in February and March when it was pretty grim in the UK).
- Job market: When I was on the job market for lectureships in the UK, I used my data transparency engagement as a selling point. Innovative teaching? I created the Replication Workshop at Cambridge, learning how to teach statistics and new methods based on published work rather than textbooks. Methods skills? I have replicated many studies across the social sciences using all kinds of methods. Feedback (also for jobs I didn’t get) was that this was quite unique and that my profile stood out. My current position at the University of Nottingham as “Assistant Professor in International Relations (with Quantitative Methods)” – yes, that’s my official post title – was the perfect fit and being a data promoter has certainly helped me to secure it.