Bringing transparency to research practice

January 22, 2024

At least 50 percent of research projects carried out worldwide are not reproducible, meaning that they cannot be repeated, and therefore checked for correctness, due to a lack of transparency and data availability. This creates a lack of trust in research results and dampens innovation. If researchers were to disclose research data, software code, and materials, then scientific discoveries could be achieved much more quickly. Open and transparent processes are therefore a marker of research excellence. “Due to a lack of training and norms,” says Managing Director of OSC, Professor Felix Schönbrodt, “such open practices have not taken hold as they should.

At least 50 percent of research projects carried out worldwide are not reproducible, meaning that they cannot be repeated, and therefore checked for correctness, due to a lack of transparency and data availability. This creates a lack of trust in research results and dampens innovation. If researchers were to disclose research data, software code, and materials, then scientific discoveries could be achieved much more quickly. Open and transparent processes are therefore a marker of research excellence.

“Due to a lack of training and norms,” says Managing Director of OSC, Professor Felix Schönbrodt, “such open practices have not taken hold as they should. And so we’re delighted that the Volkswagen Foundation is funding two programs at the OSC that are designed to help close this implementation gap.”

Switch-to-Open

The Switch-to-Open program supports individual research groups in adapting their work processes. Based on customized online tutorials, the OSC develops standard lab practices in collaboration with the respective groups – effectively, a set of guidelines for open research practices, so that they can be optimally integrated into the actual work processes of the respective team. These guidelines can also be used directly as an onboarding document for new team members. Moreover, they can be adapted for use by other researchers in the same field.

Train-the-Trainer

Complementing Switch-to-Open, the Train-the-Trainer program provides interested researchers with training in how to teach open research practices to colleagues from their own discipline. The goal here is to increase acceptance of these practices within their respective field. In total, the Train-the-Trainer program comprises eight modules, covering topics such as computer-assisted reproducibility, study planning, the publication of research data, and questions of cultural change in academia. Both programs will be developed, implemented, and evaluated over a period of three years. The Switch-to-Open program will assist ten research groups in making this transition. Meanwhile, the Train-the-Trainer program will train some 50 trainers, who in turn will train 250 further participants within the funding period.

Dr. Malika Ihle, Scientific Coordinator of the LMU Open Science Center, thinks the two programs will bring about a cultural transformation locally: “The teams and participants trained in this way will serve as role models who convey knowledge about open research practices in their institutions. Together, they support systemic change toward research that is increasingly more open and reproducible.”