Monday, March 10, 2014

Improving My Lab, My Science With the Open Science Framework

My lab has a problem. We do research, time goes by, and some research materials and data get lost. I forget why we did the study; we can’t find the final version of the materials that we used. Data just disappears. Gremlins are not stealing it. Machines break; people leave; organizational strategies break down. We presume that we will just remember what, where, and why. Then, we don’t. This loss of data wastes resources and makes our work less reproducible. We should know better. We do know better. But the problems persist. Basic principles from psychological science offer at least three reasons why we struggle to preserve our own research products. First, knowing what one should do is not sufficient to ensure that it gets done. Second, behavior is often dominated by immediate needs and not by possible future needs (e.g., “I know what var0001 and var0002 mean, so why waste time writing the meanings down?”). And third, the necessary changes require extra work; we are too busy for things that make our lives harder. These factors are nontrivial. And I don’t think it is just us. Everyone has an anecdote about the loss of research products because of disorganization, overconfidence in memory, or the complexity of managing information in collaborations. How can this problem be solved? A consultation of the psychological literature suggests that behavior is more likely to change if the solutions: provide immediate rewards; integrate easily with existing behavior; and are easy to do. more

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