There are a couple of tenured, influential professors who do not like data sharing and prefer rackets consentual collaboration. They write editorials in high-impact journals and call researchers who utilize open data „research parasites“.

There are a couple of tenured, influential professors, who do like data sharing. They post blogs and rant on twitter and create infrastructure to support open data, preregistration and the likes.

Then there are many, many young researcher. Not much influence, and still some high expectations from science as a social institution.  I believe, whether science turns open or stays closed,  these young researchers are the ones who have the most skin in the game. In my opinion, without an open turn, science will experience a post-factual turn, If science turns „post-factual“, funding can dry out. Furthermore, the post-factual turn takes an emotional toll. When i started as a scientist, i took pride in my ability to cite, extemporalis, studies adressing the topic under discussion. I learned to bite my tongue when in company of laypersons. First out of politeness. Now out of shame. I am never certain that what the paper reports is actually true. Yet, as much as i want to go open, open data, open code, open access, preregistration and the likes: there are some obstacles. And it seems to me, it boils down to this:

There is the first problem, which i call the „return on investment“ problem. Do i want a high-IF paper, because my university, my future employers, and my grant reviewers will rank me based on this? Or do i want to go open? Currently, turning open is – put simply – more work for less IF. The highest-ranking journals are closed and either opposed to open science or lack support for data-sharing. Additionally, when you preregister or go open, you run a higher risk of some random person finding a flaw in your study or criticizing you because you switched outcomes. When you publish closed and allow yourself some analytic flexibility, your investment and risk is lower, yet metric-wise, the return is usually higher.

Second, regarding the decision where to submit, co-authors have a word to say. If they want to try high impact factor, this leaves not many open access journals.  Furthermore, if you want to preregister your study, publish data or code, who funds this investment of time and resources? After all, good organization and commentation is a lot of work. Often, for young researchers, the PI will fund this by reducing workload somewhere else, which means she will have influence on the decision. In the current environment of scientific collaboration, it therefore needs just one stakeholder claiming veto. I call this the „convince your colleagues“ problem.If you want to prevent  a post-factual turn, you will have to start convincing your collaborators and funders to go open. This adds work to the already low work-metric-ratio of open-science.

But consider this:  Currently funding agencies and administration look favorably at impact factor and give less credit for open science. Yet this might change, and then, all this closed high-IF publishing might be bad for your ranking. Alternatively, if you are an early adopter, you might be pushed out of the system due to your stubborness, before the open turn is sucessful. So, young researchers have all their skin in the game, while the rules of the game change. I call this the „skin in the game“ solution. Yes, i consider it a solution. Simply because job security in science is never garantueed. Before the open turn occured, almost everybody in science was (at least implicitly) telling you, yes its bad, but play by the rules: This gives you some job security. Now we know its bullshit, and can take the risk of chipping in additional work, publish not for the metric, but for science, and try to convince your colleagues of all the possible benefits of the open turn.

Put shortly: Convince your colleagues by warning them of the post-factual turn. Tell them the open turn is the way to go.

Robert Bauer

Written by Robert Bauer

Agricolab | Descendant of Latin 'agricola', farmer; Lab (colloquial) A laboratory

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