Dear In Our Labs: I’m “On The Fence” about Open Science

A reader writes In Our Labs for advice

Every few months, the In Our Labs staff answer questions from our readers. In today’s letter, “On The Fence” writes in for some advice in solving a dual dilemma. In Our Labs’ Jill offers a creative solution!

Dear In Our Labs,

I know your rules say that we’re only supposed to write in with one question, but I thought I’d push my luck and ask about two separate situations that have been bothering me lately. If you don’t want to answer both, just pick one!

Recently I published a paper in a Psychology journal. A few months later, a graduate student from another University wrote me asking for the data. Being a traditional sort of guy, I only share data with friends and famous researchers; I would normally let this sort of request sit in my inbox for eight months or so. But lately I’ve been thinking: shouldn’t I be more open? Isn’t transparent science better science? I was thinking maybe I’d put my data online, but this would take a few hours work. What should I do?

My second problem is unrelated to the first. I was hanging out with some colleagues at a conference, and one of them— call her “Jo” — made a comment about how psychological research has methodological problems. Then, she made a joke about it! Can you imagine my shock when others laughed at the joke? How can I let them know that they are literally tearing psychological science apart and pissing on the pieces?

(call me) On The Fence

Dear On The Fence,

Thanks for writing in! You’re right that usually we don’t answer two questions in the same email, but today is your lucky day: I can solve both your problems at once.

First, we need to talk about open science. It seems like you think that “open science” is about quality, transparent, cumulative research. This is a common misconception. “Open science” is about being a member of a club that feels good about science. Jo’s joke made you feel bad. Ergo, you don’t value open science anymore!

Jo has done you a great favor. I suggest you write back to the data requester:

“Dear X, thank you for your interest my data. I was totally going to share them because I believe in transparency, but my colleague Jo recently said something that made me feel bad. I am therefore going to ignore your request until you tire of asking me. Further, I’m not going to pre-register or do anything open-science-y. Please tell all your colleagues that this is Jo’s fault. Best, On The Fence”

And when you’re p hacking your next five-way design with 10 DVs, raise a glass to Jo, who made it all possible.

In Our Labs

A voice for the voiceless in the replication crisis.

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