During a panel about the benefits of open access, librarians and scholars discussed how open access to journal articles, essays, and scientific papers may become the future of the science community. As open access becomes more popular or ‘en vogue,’ I would like to discuss the idea of open science in communication research. Open science is the notion that research needs to be made transparent to the research community. The idea behind open science is to allow for other researchers to be able to see and have access to a researchers hypotheses and data before the experiment is conducted in order to aid in the openness, reproducibility, and integrity of communication research. In previous blogs I have discussed both open access and research ethics and I believe that the idea of open science is one way to help the research community both battle the ethics issue by pre-registering scientific research and aid in the open access of this same research. Higher education can benefit from this relatively new process of registering data and ideas by extending an easier way for data to be reviewed by peers and to halt the idea of ‘cherry picking’ data in order to prove a hypothesis.
A growing problem in the communication field (and I assume in other fields) is the idea of ‘cherry picking’ data. This is the practice of just using the data that helps to prove a certain hypothesis or finding a reason to throw out data that may not help in proving a certain hypothesis. By using open science and pre-registering hypotheses and by sharing data sets in a transparent and easily accessed way other scientists can comb through the data and see that the results have not been ‘white-washed.’ With so many experiments, and researchers studying similar kinds of phenomena, a discrepancy in data can really stand out and be found by peers. Therefore, the enticements to cheat the system and act unethically, are greatly lessened for most researchers. Open science, although not accepted by all researchers, can be a new and novel approach to ensuring the ethics of the communication field and its research is not compromised by a few unethical researchers, looking for an easy way to get published.
Like I said, not all researchers in the field accept open science as a viable option but the notion of open science is growing in the communication field. I think that there are still ‘old school’ researchers that believe that their ways are the best ways and that change is not necessarily a good thing. Open science does create more work for the researcher when it comes to reporting data sets and a lot of researchers would like to keep proprietary research and data private, which adds another reason why not all researchers are on board. However, there are ways to keep data proprietary and still report it through the open science framework, it just means more work for the researchers, which is also another stumbling block in open science being fully integrated throughout the communications field.