Many aspiring social scientists, and especially psychologists who are just in the beginning of their career path, are confronted with questions such as whether the scientific publishing system is broken. There is a replication crisis in psychology that indicates that many psychological findings are unreliable. But what can we do about that? And how can we fix it?
Researchers have taken different initiatives to improve science, most of which are open science practices. Open Science basically means making the research process and its results as transparent and accessible as possible (1)Crüwell, S., Van Doorn, J., Etz, A., Makel, M. C., Moshontz, H., Niebaum, J. C., … Schulte-Mecklenbeck, M. (2019). Seven Easy Steps to Open Science: An Annotated Reading List. Zeitschrift Fur Psychologie / Journal of Psychology. doi: 10.1027/2151-2604/a000387.
The voice of students and junior academics
So far, changes have mainly been implemented by senior researchers. Interestingly, some have argued that students and early career researchers (ECRs) have no influence in improving science (2)Orben, A. (2019). A journal club to fix science. Nature, 573(7775), 465-465. doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-02842-8.
The development of the grassroot journal club initiative ReprodicibiliTea is one example of proving these voices wrong. In 2018, Sophia Crüwell, Amy Orben and Sam Parsons founded ReprodicibiliTea to discuss issues and publications related to open science, reproducibility and improving science, all while having a cup of tea. The initiative grew ever since and has spread, according to the ReproducibiliTea website, to 106 institutions in 25 different countries. This proves that students and ECRs have the ability to create communities around, educate about, and finally change science through bottom-up processes (3)Orben, A. (2019). A journal club to fix science. Nature, 573(7775), 465-465. doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-02842-8.
On Monday 28 September 2020, ReproducibiliTea came to the University of Bergen with their first meeting! The plan is to run monthly or bi-monthly meetings for the foreseeable future. The person who got the ball rolling is associate professor Bjørn Sætrevik. From here on, the monthly meetings will be arranged by participating PhD candidates. Sætrevik agreed to answer some questions about the new journal club at the University of Bergen and the motivations behind setting it up.
Sætrevik says his motivation for setting up the journal club grew out of personal interest, which led to conversations with students and colleagues.
– This is a topic that has interested me for some years, and I’ve discussed it with colleagues and students on a number of occasions.
What became clear was that early career researchers are interested in getting to know more about open science, reproducibility and good scientific practices, discussing them and putting them to practice. However, a platform to discuss them was still missing.
– The students and «early career researchers» in particular are quite interested in these ideas but are often unsure of how to put them into practice in their own research, Sætrevik comments.
– The aim of the journal club is to read some key papers and discuss how we may apply these principles in our own research.
Usually ReproducibiliTea journal clubs are initiated by local PhD candidates. In Bergen, the faculty took the initiative, and initiated a PhD course that is open for those that are interested in these issues.
– We have thrown the idea around for a while but have been unsure of what format would be best suited, Sætrevik says.
– These kinds of clubs are typically arranged by PhD candidates on their own initiative. We ended up using a framework of a PhD course, arranged by the faculty’s research schools.
Learning to open science
– The journal club is initially a PhD course, but it will also be attended by senior researchers, and will be open for some master’s students, if there is space available. The journal club is for researchers who are interested in learning more about reproducibility issues in social science, about principles for open, transparent and robust research, or would like to improve their research practices and become more reflective in their reading of scientific literature.
The journal club will be guided by its audience and their interests. It will also be possible to divide the group by interests and demands, depending on the attendance. At the same time, Sætrevik stresses that students should feel free to start their own initiatives, if they feel that it could be useful for them, rather than waiting for others to organise something for them.
– Joining the journal club could be a good place to start! There are also plenty of relevant blogs, podcasts, Twitter accounts and social media groups to follow. A place to start could be Gilad Feldman’s list of podcasts or courses. But often the key issue is one of attitude rather than technique. We need to ask ourselves: will my research be a severe test of my theory, where I open myself to being proved wrong?
If you are interested and want to get involved in UiB’s ReproducibiliTea journal club, feel free to contact associate professor Bjørn Sætrevik (Bjorn.Satrevik@uib.no), or sign up for the ReproducibiliTea PhD course. Another option is to take initiative yourself. Pick a text or topic of interest, get together with your fellow students and discuss possible issues around it and how it can help you to improve your scientific work and practices, or maybe the entire field.