Open Science Framework: Meeting Researchers Where They Are

This is a guest post by Megan Potterbusch, National Digital Stewardship resident at the Association of Research Libraries.

Megan Pottersbusch. Photo by Alfield Reeves.

Megan Pottersbusch. Photo by Alfield Reeves.

Openly sharing research data, code and methodology are integral parts of open science. Whether due to disciplinary culture shifts or funder and publisher mandates, the general trend towards open science has been increasing in many research fields. Researchers and disciplines differ in their understanding of open science, to the extent that I cannot assert that open science falls consistently within Open Access; however, the majority of researchers with whom I’ve spoken consider these as overlapping movements.

Regardless, open science functions as a way to increase scientific transparency and the integrity of research. When done well, this increased transparency improves the research process and builds trust in the results.

Many projects and tools exist to support open access to data and scientific code in various ways, and there are many creative and flexible project-management systems used by research labs. However, there are few tools designed to both support effective project management and open science, and even fewer, if any, that have native support for registration (essentially a time-stamped snapshot of research) or preregistration .

The Open Science Framework, a product of the Center for Open Science, is designed to encourage and assist the movement towards open science by providing a free space that supports the entire research lifecycle, from data collection and analysis to preservation and long-term access. With an intuitive interface and flexible design, the OSF allows researchers to organize and structure their projects to match their research needs without compromising their current workflows. By supporting add-ons, the OSF enables users to connect various services (e.g. Google Drive, Dropbox, Dataverse and GitHub) to their projects, thus removing the need to completely change tools.

Although designed to promote openness and collaboration, each project created in the OSF begins as private and can remain so for as long the project’s administrators desire. Changing a project to public is as easy as clicking a button. Public projects can receive digital object identifiers through the OSF even while the project is still underway, because everything in the OSF is version controlled and you can see a history of the changes, additions and deletions.

In order to motivate researchers to establish more transparent and open scientific practices, the COS created the $1,000,000 Preregistration Challenge, one thousand awards of $1,000 each, which offers researchers the opportunity to earn $1,000 by clearly outlining and describing their research plan and methods in the OSF before beginning their research.

Additionally they have identified and established relationships with a large number of respected journals in a variety of disciplines that have demonstrated a commitment to transparency and reproducibility. Publishing a researcher’s  preregistration alongside the article(s) from the study allows readers, reviewers and publishers a chance to not only see the data but also to examine the methodology behind the research and see what changed over the course of the research process.

This transparency helps prevent practices like p-hacking and HARKing, which negatively impact the integrity of scientific results. This is not to imply that the methods and data must stay exactly consistent with the researcher’s initial plans; instead, anything that did change over the course of the research must be outlined and accounted for in the final article(s).

Essentially, the OSF aims to lower the barriers faced by researchers interested in increasing the openness and transparency of their research practices and outputs. Flexibility of settings and structure allow each project administrator to control if, when and how their work becomes open. With all the conversations and momentum around open science and Open Access, the OSF aims to fill the clear need in the scholarly communication ecosystem for a public good to support this work, which may prove vital to the integrity and understanding of modern research.

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