Outlook: Newsletter of the Society of Behavorial Medicine

Summer 2018

Opening Your Science to Increase Its Rigor and Impact

Megan A. McVay, PhD and David E. Conroy, PhD, Publication and Communications Council Chair

Health and behavioral research is evolving and new practices regarding its communication are being adopted that promote transparency, reproducibility, verifiability, and access. Collectively, these practices are described as “open science” and they aspire to increase both the rigor and impact of our science.

Many behavioral medicine researchers already engage in some of the following open science practices at different points in the research pipeline.

Pre-registration. Pre-registering is the process of creating a time-stamped registration of your study plan in an institutional registration system prior to data collection (or prior to analyses if data is already collected). The most well-known registry may be www.clinicaltrials.gov. Registration involves documenting the inclusion/exclusion criteria, planned sample size, and analytic plan. A clinical trial registration is a form of pre-registration, but pre-registration can be done for other types of empirical research as well.

Submitting registered reports. A registered report is a manuscript format where a research project undergoes peer review and receives a publication decision prior to data collection. Over 90 journals currently accept registered reports, including Nicotine & Tobacco Research and Health Psychology Bulletin. At present, SBM journals do not use registered reports as a publication mechanism.

Making research data and materials open. Open data refers to the process of making available the (de-identified) data you used for the analyses presented in a manuscript. This usually involves uploading the data and a codebook, ideally along with code you used in your analyses, to an online data repository. Open materials involves uploading study materials (e.g., protocols, stimuli, intervention manuals).

Posting pre-prints. Pre-prints are manuscript drafts that are uploaded to a website to be shared with anyone prior to having been accepted to a peer-reviewed journal. Pre-prints of the author’s original version are often posted at the same time that a manuscript is submitted to a journal. Those pre-prints remain online following publication of the final version of record. To reduce confusion, authors should work with publishers to link the Digital Object Identifier (DOI) code for the pre-print with the final published, typeset article hosted by the publisher. The publisher for the two SBM journals, Oxford University Press, has posted their policy on pre-prints at https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/access_purchase/rights_and_permissions/author_self_archiving_policy.

Publishing Open Access. Publishing open access means that a manuscript is available for download by anyone at no cost to them. For example, non-profits and small businesses can obtain articles on cutting-edge science even if they do not have the funds to pay for journal subscriptions.

Many of these changes are already being embraced by SBM and its members (e.g., clinical trials registration), others are available for interested researchers (e.g., publishing open access articles in Annals of Behavioral Medicine or Translational Behavioral Medicine) and others may be less common (e.g., submitting registered reports, posting pre-prints). External mandates to use open science practices are increasing – think of clinicaltrials.gov registration or the NIH Public Access Policy – but investigators can also be proactive in opening up their science. You can explore online tools and learn more via the Open Science Framework (https://osf.io) or the Center for Open Science (https://cos.io).

What do you think? SBM leaders are interested in your experiences with open science practices. Please share your thoughts on how SBM members can leverage open science practices to increase the impact of their work. And let us know if you have concerns about possible adverse impacts of open science. Please contribute to a dialogue on Twitter using #sbmopensci or emailing your thoughts to opensci@sbm.org.