Improving the Transparency of Your Research:
Authors: Aggie Chidlow (University of Birmingham, UK) & Catherine Welch (University of Sydney, Australia)
As scholars we embrace the opportunities to contribute to and move forward ongoing research debates via the creation and publication of journal articles within the academic communities to which we belong. In doing so, our work plays an important part of the evolutionary process of knowledge development and, therefore, should be guided by disciplinary norms and values of science centered on openness, replicability and transparency.
Surprisingly, and as pointed out by Eden (2010), John et al., (2012), Ioannidis et al., (2014) and Banks et al., (2016), these fundamental pillars of science have not (yet) been fully embraced by all researchers due, apparently, to the absence of persuasive incentives that would nudge scientific practices towards them. So, to influence that a number of academic associations and journals have started to either revise or develop their policies and procedures for publications in order to enhance evidence trails and reanalysis of data as part of their code of ethics. For example, the Academy of International Business hosted a panel during its annual meeting in 2020 dedicated to provide an overview of what different academic associations and research communities are doing to encourage or even mandate practices to improve transparency. What is more, the Journal of International Business Studies, which is the leading journal in our scientific field, has recently published an editorial setting out a new approach to data access and research transparency (DART) within the international business community (Beugelsdijk et al., 2020).
The aim of DART (as a policy) is to encourage sharing of research data to enable the further accumulation of knowledge. However, as sharing of data is not always feasible or ethically appropriate, the intention of DART is to enhance research transparency in an actionable, sensitive, and pragmatic way, while at the same time enabling researchers to pursue a wide range of research methodologies.
So, what is research transparency?
Generally speaking, in social science the term “research transparency” relates to a shared principle that “academic scholars have an ethical obligation to disclose their evidence-based knowledge claims in order to facilitate replicability of their work (Lupia & Elman, 2014; Moravcsik, 2019). The concept has three normative dimensions:
What it means?
All those three components form an integral part of research transparency. So, if research data is unavailable, data collection procedures mysterious and the analysis of the data used baffling then the methodological underpinning of knowledge creation becomes opaque, leaving readers not only to doubt the research findings, but also unable to debate, replicate and extend it. This does not just damage the credibility of the research, but also hampers future research on the topic.
Why should we care?
Academic journals, professional associations, publishers, review boards, governmental funding bodies and the public, to name a few, are increasingly pressing via their code of ethics and data policies for scholars to make their data, methods and analysis widely available in order to ensure legitimacy and credibility of their empirical scholarly work. It is becoming harder to obtain funding, publish in top journals as well as debate and justify a cagey academic study.
All Higher Education Institutions, irrespective of their geographical locations, are increasingly mandating transparency and rigour as research standards across all their disciplines. These requirements are normally set out in their statements on research integrity as well as research strategies. So, the insurgency in research transparency that is currently taking place across the social sciences is not going to go away. Watch out: The change is already on its way! We need to embrace it in order to ensure the credibility of our scientific claims.