Weaknesses in the transparency of social science research undermine its potential contribution to policy design. This is driven by recent discoveries of publication bias, data mining, unreproducible results, and fraud across the fields of economics, political science, or psychology. Significant hurdles remain with the practice of research, including academic incentives that reward striking and statistically significant results at the expense of scientific integrity.
In partnership with the Templeton Foundation, the Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences (BITSS) proposes to launch a prize competition to incent the adoption of best practices across the social sciences– particularly among next-generation researchers. Prizes can signal social acceptance and provide visibility for new practices, and can be structured to nurture the growing community of junior scholars who are motivated to adopt more transparent approaches. We propose to launch two prizes: one to recognize early career scientists whose published work exemplifies transparency in research or advances our understanding of research transparency, and one for university instructors who integrate transparency into their training materials and courses.
Prizes will be awarded at a high-profile annual ceremony, with the objective of raising awareness of the movement toward more open and reliable research. In addition, prize winners will have the opportunity to present their work at disciplinary convenings and workshops with policy-makers in Washington, DC.
The long-term impact of the project– beyond its role of incenting others to adopt best practices –will include (i) helping scientists to define excellence in research transparency, though dissemination of prize criteria; (ii) improving the skills of researchers who participate in the competition; and (iii) signaling to the academic community, policy-makers, and the public at large the importance of embracing new research practices.