A junior researcher's practical take on the why and how of open science.

Sharing data and materials can be nearly as easy.  Some researchers have begun to simply link to them on personal websites, and others use free online repositories designed specifically for scientists.  I, for instance, have used the Open Science Framework (OSF) to store hypotheses, research plans, stimuli, and data.  The OSF basically serves as a time-stamped online file storing and sharing system, not unlike Figshare or Dropbox.  But, importantly, with a click of the button it also allows you to share any of your stored materials with specific individuals, such as collaborators, or the general public.

Making it usable. Of course, making your work truly open is not the same as merely making it available; to be helpful to others it must also be organized and easily decipherable.  Frankly, this takes upfront time and effort. But most of the work and drag that open science demands—for instance compiling materials, clearly labeling data and code, documenting hypotheses and analyses—is the kind of rigorous work that makes science better.  Junior scientists are in the relatively well-off position of being able to integrate such organizational habits from the start, making sharing down the line much easier.

Expecting openness from others. Sometimes junior researchers can also create expectations of openness from others. For instance, Barbara Spellman recently proposed that researchers could demand access to data files before agreeing to serve as journal reviewers for empirical papers.  We can also train the next generation of psychologists to integrate open practices into their everyday workflow.  I, for example, may not be able to change the practices or beliefs of my senior collaborators, but I have been pleasantly surprised by how excited undergraduate research assistants are to learn about and begin using open practices.  If anything, they are surprised to learn we don’t do so already.

How openness can benefit the junior researcher.

Perhaps the most obvious immediate personal benefit of practicing open science is that it gets your name and findings out in public so people can more quickly become familiar with your work.  Not only does it make published papers more accessible to would-be readers and citers, but it provides a place for unpublished work to be disseminated.  This is likely particularly helpful to a junior researchers, who may wait years to see our name in print.

Despite this obvious benefit, some researchers still fear the risks of being open outweigh the benefits.  Common fears, however, are likely overblown and may actually instead be better characterized as benefits.  I should acknowledge that others have made these arguments for years.  I repeat them because I believe they are important and right.

First, researchers are afraid that others will literally steal their ideas or data, claiming priority or failing to give proper citation.  If anything, however, having your work publicly published online should protect you from this fear.  If someone copies your work and passes it off as their own without attributing it to you, then that is plagiarism and fraud. Having your data or ideas published online prior to hard copy provides you with time-stamped evidence that you had the idea or data first.  It may even stop unintentional scooping that would otherwise occur, since new researchers can check whether others are working on similar projects, and possibly even collaborate with them, before starting on duplicative work. 

Second, researchers are afraid that others will misappropriate their hard work.  This is an understandable concern: researchers who put in lots of effort (and sometimes money) want to be sufficiently rewarded. 

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