“Science is broken; let’s fix it.”
Introducing Frankl adviser and open science pioneer Professor Alex Holcombe
We’re very excited to announce Professor Alex Holcombe as the latest member of the Frankl advisory team.
Alex is a Professor of Psychology at the University of Sydney. He’s a world-leading expert in visual perception and attention. He’s also a genuine pioneer of open science:
- In 2007 he became an academic editor and founding advisory board member for what is now the world’s largest open access journal PLoS ONE.
- In 2011, as the evidence for replication problems in psychology began to amass, he co-created PsychFileDrawer — a website for researchers to post brief reports about replication studies they had conducted. At the time at least, replication studies were very difficult to publish, leading to a horribly skewed literature.
- In 2013, he took this a step further. As an editor of the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, with Dan Simons and Bobbie Spellman, he introduced a new journal format, the Registered Replication Report. Researchers could propose a seminal study that they wanted to replicate, work with the original authors to ensure they were doing everything correctly, and publication was essentially guaranteed, regardless of whether the original finding replicated or did not.
- Earlier this year, he co-founded the new journal Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science
- He’s part of a group of scientists affiliated with the Open Science Framework who have introduced an open science badge system for journal articles. Badges can be awarded for Open Methods, Open Data, and study Preregistration.
- He’s been an advisor to preprint server PsyArXiv, psychology’s answer to ArXiv; and to CurateScience, “a platform to crowdsource the credibility of empirical research by curating its transparency, reproducibility / robustness, and replicability.”
- He also features in this excellent cartoon explaining the “reproducibility crisis”.
Science is best when the data is an open book
It was 1986, and the American space agency, NASA, was reeling from the loss of seven lives. The space shuttle…
Alex has been consistently ahead of the game on all things open science. Here’s some advice he gave 6 years ago:
Preregister your study hypotheses, methods, and analysis plan. If you go on record with your plan before you do the study, this will allay the suspicion that your result is not robust, that you fished around with techniques and statistics until you got a statistically significant result. Journals will increasingly endorse a policy of favoring submitted manuscripts that have preregistered their plan in this way. Although websites set up to take these plans may not yet be available in your field, they are coming, and in the meantime you can post something on your own website, on FigShare perhaps, or in your university publicly accessible e-repository.
Post your raw data (where ethically possible), experiment code, and analysis code to the web. This says you’ve got nothing to hide. No dodgy analyses, and you welcome the contributions of others to improve your statistical practices.
Post all pilot data, interim results, and everything you do to the web, as the data come in. This is the ultimate in open science. You can link to your “electronic laboratory notebooks” in your grants and papers. Your reviewers will have no excuse to harbor dark thoughts about how your results came about, when they can go through the whole record.
Making open science easy and rewarding
It’s also worth acknowledging that Frankl has already borrowed some of Alex’s ideas.
A few years ago, Alex explained to me how he builds data management procedures into the Python code he writes to run his experiments. As the data come in, it’s archived in a secure repository — effectively in real time. When he publishes the research, he can change the access privileges and voila, open data!
Unfortunately, very few scientists — at least in psychology — would know how to do this themselves. And even if they could, most don’t have the incentive or motivation. This is where we come in, building Alex’s data archiving workflow into Frankl applications that scientists will use to collect their data.
Let’s build data-sharing into the scientific workflow
At Frankl, one of our key aims is to make data sharing part of the everyday workflow of scientists — for the benefit of…
Alex has also been at the forefront of efforts to make open science more rewarding, pointing out that traditionally there’s little incentive for scientists to share their data or their methods.
We’re extremely grateful to have Alex on board. And we’re hoping that together we’ll be able to make open science both easier and more rewarding for scientists.