Transparency is critical to the integrity of the scientific process. When a researcher explains what he or she intends to study, makes the elements of the experiment easily accessible, and publishes the findings regardless of whether they confirm the hypothesis, we can have greater confidence in the results. However, a great deal of research fails to meet this standard. Reporting requirements within the scientific community are often weak and lack enforceability. Furthermore, scientific journals frequently show a strong bias for provocative findings and statistically significant results. This perpetuates the “publish or perish” culture. Researchers, who have a better chance of securing future funding when their previous studies have been featured in prominent journals, are incentivized to alter their research and manipulate results, which compromises the pursuit of scientific truth. By partnering with scholars, evaluators, and scientific journals to make the process more transparent, LJAF is working to address this issue and ensure the reliability and validity of scientific research.
We are the lead funder of the Center for Open Science, an organization that is building free, open-source research tools, promoting the adoption of high-quality methods, and conducting metascience research to better understand the gaps between scientific values and existing practices. The Center’s signature project, the Open Science Framework (OSF), allows scientists to preregister their studies by submitting a description of the project before the analyses are performed. This is an important step, as preregistration makes it possible for others to assess whether a study’s findings truly confirm the stated hypothesis. In addition to preregistering studies, researchers use the OSF to make their datasets, computer code, and results publicly available. Sharing this information, even in instances where findings are not published in a peer-reviewed journal, expands the body of scientific literature and helps to accelerate scientific discovery.
LJAF also supports the AllTrials initiative and its campaign to require that all clinical trials—past and present—be registered with full disclosure of study methods and results. In a related effort, we are funding the creation of Open Trials, an open, online database that will aggregate information from a wide variety of sources to provide a comprehensive picture of the data and documents associated with all trials of medicines and other treatments from around the world.
In addition, our grant to the American Association for the Advancement of Science is supporting a partnership between Science and other major journals and government funders. The collaboration is focused on developing new guidelines for transparency that outline the elements editors and reviewers should consider when deciding whether to publish a study.
In an effort to encourage high-quality reporting on health and medical news, we fund Health News Review, an initiative of the University of Minnesota. The group regularly critiques the press releases that universities and scientific journals issue about health studies. It also analyzes news articles, advertising, marketing, and other messages that may influence consumers. We believe Health News Review will help to improve transparency and allow individuals to make more informed decisions about their health.
COS Co-Founder Brian Nosek describes how the organization is working to improve the way science is conducted and communicated.