Doing reproducible research and advocating for reproducibility involves extra time and resources. This puts researchers at a competitive disadvantage. But should they ask for additional rewards for their engagement? A guest post by Marta Teperek.
There was lots of discussion recently about additional rewards for researchers committed to and promoting reproducible research, so I thought it might be timely to join the discussion.
Opinions seem to be split. Some argue that doing reproducible research and advocating for research reproducibility involves extra time and resources, which puts researchers who care about reproducibility at competitive disadvantage. Hence the need for additional rewards. Some believe that additional rewards for doing and advocating for reproducible research are not necessary. Commitment to reproducible research and reminding peers of the principles of research integrity and sound scientific methodology, are just normal expectations of anyone in the profession.
Researchers are currently not rewarded for doing reproducible research
In the ideal world, I would agree with the latter. Being a researchers entails being committed to uncovering the truth. This by definition requires commitment to research reproducibility and research integrity. But this should also mean that those good at rigorously uncovering the truth, should be rewarded appropriately. This is of course not the case. Flawed metrics and academic rewards systems focused almost entirely on research publications in high impact factor venues could be one of the reasons why one always struggles to find convincing examples of how commitment to reproducible research benefitted academic careers, and is certainly one of the contributors to the reproducibility crisis that readers of this blog must be too well aware of.
Are additional rewards needed?
So do we need additional rewards in place? Perhaps these are indeed needed in the short-term to keep the enthusiasm of those already committed to doing reproducible research and to encourage the others. However, in the long term such approach is not sustainable. I strongly believe that the whole system in which academic research is evaluated and rewarded needs to drastically change. Rewarding those committed to reproducible research should be at the very core of it. Involvement of funding bodies is key to this. They fund the research and if they announced that high impact factor publications are no longer what allows researchers to secure grant funding, research institutions will need to follow and change their promotion and hiring criteria to ensure their competitiveness in grant applications and continued funding stream.
Change is coming
Thankfully, change seems to be coming. In July 2017 one of the European Commission’s expert groups for the Open Science Policy Platform produced a report entitled “Evaluation of Research Careers fully acknowledging Open Science Practices“. The report strongly criticised the currently flawed metrics and reward systems used in academia and advocated for it be changed and to reward commitment to Open Science practices instead. Suggestion was made that commitment to Open Science practices should be used as evaluation criteria for future FP9 funding streams from the European Commission.
The role of professional service providers
So what’s the role for librarians and other professional service providers at research institutions? In my view there are several aspects they could help with:
- Encourage and advocate. Professional service providers should encourage and advocate for research reproducibility. This role cannot be simply absorbed by researchers who are committed to reproducible research. Additional advocacy and encouragement to the wider research community is necessary and while support of local champions is crucial, this type of activities need people who are employed to do that and who have the time to organise meetings and presentations.
- Showcase. There are already lots of researchers who are committed to reproducible research. Such behaviours need to be showcased and promoted, so that researchers already committed to doing reproducible research do not become discouraged from doing so, and that others can be inspired by their leadership.
- Provide skills and training.Some researchers might simply lack the skills and training necessary to do reproducible research. In particular, solid understanding of statistics is often a necessary component of rigorous scientific methodologies. Professional service providers should take the lead in identifying skill gaps and ensuring appropriate training provision.
- Lobby for change. Finally, researchers are in principle tasked with doing research. Someone however needs to lobby for change in the rewards system on behalf of the research community. And here again is an important role for professional service providers at research institutions to collect evidence, to propose changes to promotion and hiring criteria with institutional management and to discuss the problems with funding bodies.
I strongly believe that if the community acts collaboratively, change is possible.
Marta Teperek did a PhD in developmental biology and epigenetics at the University of Cambridge. Having first-hand experience of problems that researchers face on a day-to-day basis with the journals’ impact factor, and not the quality of the research process, dictating the future of their academic career, Marta decided to get professionally involved in advocating for open research and for better transparency in science. In 2015 she started working at the Office of Scholarly Communication at the University of Cambridge and led the creation and development of the Research Data Management Facility, supporting researchers at the University of Cambridge in good management and sharing of research data. While at Cambridge, Marta initiated and overseen the Data Champions programme and the Open Research Pilot. In August 2017 Marta moved to TU Delft in Netherlands, where she leads the Data Stewardship project.
Marta serves on the Editorial Board of the Data Science Journal and she spoke at several international conferences and workshops on Open Science and Research Data Management.