Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences

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Emerging Researcher Perspectives: Get it Right the First Time!

Guest post by Olivia D’Aoust, Ph.D. in Economics from Université libre de Bruxelles, and former Fulbright Visiting Ph.D. student at the University of California, Berkeley.

As a Fulbright PhD student in development economics from Brussels, my experience this past year on the Berkeley campus has been eye opening. In particular, I discovered a new movement toward improving the standards of openness and integrity in economics, political science, psychology, and related disciplines lead by the Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences (BITSS).

When I first discovered BITSS, it struck me how little I knew about research on research in the social sciences, the pervasiveness of fraud in science in general (from data cleaning and specification searching to faking data altogether), and the basic lack of consensus on what is the right and wrong way to do research. These issues are essential, yet too often they are left by the wayside. Transparency, reproducibility, replicability, and integrity are the building blocks of scientific research.


Announcing New Grants for Data Publication!

The Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences (BITSS), the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA), and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation are pleased to announce the Sloan Grants for Data Publication.

Regardless of how transparent or rigorous a study design may be, if the study materials (datasets, code, metadata, etc.) are not made publicly available, the research community cannot verify the study’s results. This has prompted research funding institutions, BITSS and its allies to push for data publication.

Unfortunately, the incentives to publish studies materials remain limited. Consequently, few researchers have the bandwidth to take on the burdensome task of preparing study materials for public access. This results in the loss of valuable resources for the research community and the public alike.

We would like to help CEGA and BITSS affiliated researchers get through the last hurdles in finalizing replication sets by giving out grants up to $5,000 to help increase the “transparency footprint” of our community within the next year. We hope these small grants will aid in the hiring of RAs to create and finalize replication sets or support researchers own workflow in a way that increases their ability to make data and study materials available online. Please fill in this short expression of interest by March 15, 2015 to apply.

We look forward to seeing just how many datasets we can make publicly available!

Please contact BITSS Program Coordinator Alex Wais with any questions.

Scientists Have a Sharing Problem

Dec 15th Maggie Puniewska posted an article in the Atlantic Magazine summarizing the obstacles preventing researchers from sharing their data.

The article asks if “science has traditionally been a field that prizes collaboration […] then why [are] so many scientists stingy with their information.”

Puniewska outlines the most cited reasons scientists reframe from sharing their data.

The culture of innovation breeds fierce competition, and those on the brink of making a groundbreaking discovery want to be the first to publish their results and receive credit for their ideas.

[I]f sharing data paves the way for an expert to build upon or dispute other scientists’ results in a revolutionary way, it’s easy to see why some might choose to withhold.


Data Access and Research Transparency Panel @ APSA 2014

Join the BITSS co-sponsored panel Implementing Data Access and Research Transparency: Multiple Challenges, Multiple Perspectives at the upcoming meeting of the American Political Science Association (August 27-31, 2014 — Washington, DC).

  • Colin Elman, Syracuse University
  • Arthur Lupia, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor


Data Science Meets Social Science (Video)

The video from a recent BITSS roundtable entitled “Data Science Meets Social Science” is now available online. Organized in partnership with the UC Berkeley D-Lab, the event brought together leading social scientists and Silicon Valley professionals to discuss pathways of collaboration between the two different fields, and their increasing impact on society in the age of open science.



Research Transparency & Open Knowledge: Lessons from #OKFest14

By Guillaume Kroll (CEGA)

Over a thousand scientists, activists, and civil society representatives from over 60 countries gathered in Berlin last week for the 2014 Open Knowledge Festival (OKFest14). The Festival is the flagship event of the Open Knowledge Foundation, an international nonprofit promoting open tools, data, and information for the positive transformation of society.

Welcome Ceremony at OKFest14 © Guillaume Kroll

Welcome Ceremony at OKFest14 © Guillaume Kroll

It’s a well-oiled event, full of energy and creativity, bringing together an eclectic group that goes as far as to include street artistsEU commissioners, and a lot of data geeks scientists, to build a community around the ideals of openness and transparency.

Below is an overview of cool tools, resources, and other pieces of advice gathered at the Festival pertaining to social science research:


Tonight! Data Science Meets Social Science

Tonight in Berkeley! June 5, 2014 6:00pm — 7:30pm. David Brower Center (Kinzie Room), 2150 Allston Way.

All across the social sciences we can see a convergence around the ideals of openness and reproducibility. Over the past years, the injection of ways of thinking and working from scientific computing into social science research has helped develop an infrastructure to make this agenda possible. Version control, forking, and repositories sustain data-intensive, compute-heavy collaborative projects that go a long way toward managing the tensions of distance and perspective.

The social sciences are in the very earliest stages of exploring these tools, and they are just starting to think through what a truly open and collaborative community might be. The Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences (BITSS) and the UC Berkeley D-Lab are bringing together leading social scientists and Silicon Valley professionals for an evening reception to discuss pathways of collaboration between these two worlds, and their increasing impact on society in the age of open science. Drinks and light appetizers will be served.