we have written a blog post that will (likely) end up in Le Monde. We figured that this would be of interest to you. I will post the French and English versions of the first paragraph of the blog. The full post you can find here. Please, if you agree with us, sign, and please, also spread it as much as you can in your networks. We think this is an important one to get support on from you and your colleagues.
# La société devrait exiger davantage des scientifiques : lettre ouverte à la population française
L’étude scientifique des comportements humains fournit des connaissances pertinentes pour chaque instant de notre vie. Ces connaissances peuvent être utilisées pour résoudre des problèmes sociétaux urgents et complexes, tels que la dépression, les discriminations et le changement climatique. Avant 2011, beaucoup de scientifiques pensaient que le processus de création des connaissances scientifiques était efficace. Nous étions complètement dans l’erreur. Plus important encore, notre domaine a découvert que même des chercheurs honnêtes pouvaient produire des connaissances non fiables. Il est donc temps d’appliquer ces réflexions à nos pratiques afin de changer radicalement la façon dont la science fonctionne.
Society should demand more from scientists: Open letter to the (French) public
The science of human behavior can generate knowledge that is relevant to every single moment of our lives. This knowledge can be deployed to address society’s most urgent and difficult problems — up to and including depression, discrimination, and climate change. Before 2011, many of us thought the process we used to create this scientific knowledge was working well. We were dead wrong. Most importantly, our field has discovered that even honest researchers can generate findings that are not reliable. It is therefore time to apply our insights to ourselves to drastically change the way science works.
I have read your article. Thanks for sharing your thoughts but I will share a slightly discordant opinion. Although transparency, which favors different forms of reproducibility, should obviously be the golden rule in science, the statistics naivety is not necessarily the key cause of the “reproducibility crisis” in every domain. I believe biologists, computer scientists, psychologists, social scientists, etc. share some similarities but also all evolve with very specific constraints and needs. Given the current political climate in France and in particular the position of many researchers regarding the funding of academic research (in particular the LPRU), I fear your petition may be a bit counter-productive when urging “society to demand more from scientists”.
The following paragraph is my sole opinion and I do not intend to start a long trolling discussion here. Let me start by noting that I think the lack of transparency is much more striking on the politics, finance, and industry side than on the academia side. The French society/government is already demanding a lot to academia without giving them proper means to conduct their work in decent conditions. Many of the scientific misconduct, unethical behaviors or deviance (success publishing bias) of the system you describe find their root in the lack of recurrent funding, the precariousness of researchers and the difficulty to conduct good research over a sufficiently long time period. It seems to me that many of your proposals (requiring DMP when proposing projects, open data/code access by default, etc.) are already part of the open science movement and are backed up by the PNSO and are thus underway. Things are already evolving very quickly and although I am favorable to many of these transformations, I hope they won’t be too harmful either (not everyone will be able to adapt quickly enough, including groups that were doing very good research). I think that before any new regulation is proposed (e.g., to evaluate the reproducibility of proposals), the priority is to increase the global budget dedicated to academic research and University. For example verifying the scientific integrity is undoubtedly important but also has a cost. Given the extremely low fraction of our GDP currently devoted to academic research, I fear that “setting aside dedicated funding” will only be done at the price of less funded research, more evaluations and norms, administrative paperwork, etc. Note that I fully subscribe to your last proposal, which urges University (or CNRS, Inria, etc.) to promote and hire researchers that take care of making all their work available. Note that this will be effective only if there is enough budget to hire and promote researchers and given the evolution over the last decade, I’m quite pessimistic.
In short, Open Science is essential but at the moment, I fear that the “Science” part of open science is much more endangered (for budget, political and ideological reasons) than the “Open” part, on which dramatic improvements have been achieved over the last decade, in particular due to the strong engagements of many individuals (including yourself! )
Just my two cents…
Arnaud, hoping this message will not create a storm