Brian Nosek, Center for Open Science, Inc.

Advancing Research Transparency

What if what we don’t know about scientific research could hurt us?

What if research practices were less competitive and more transparent?

What if the pace and quality of discovery could be improved?

Grant Title
Openness, integrity, and reproducibility: Aligning scientific practices with scientific values to accelerate discovery
Legal Organization
Center for Open Science, Inc.
Project Dates
Start Date: 01 July 2018
End Date: 30 June 2021
Grant Amount

Among human endeavors, scientific research ranks high as a noble pursuit. Most of us trust science to make discoveries that add to the world’s storehouse of knowledge, solve problems, and make our lives better.

True, public trust wavered some during the COVID-19 pandemic. But people still have more confidence in scientists to act in the public’s best interest than they have in the military, police officers, public school principals or even religious leaders, according to the findings of a 2022 Pew Research Center survey.

Individuals have come to depend on the findings of scientific research for all sorts of things. Insights into how to be healthy and live longer. Have better relationships. Improve our brain functioning. Be happier. Strengthen our communities. Protect our Earth. Glimpse into the universe. Better understand religion. And more.

The more that research claims it discovers, the less trustworthy many of those findings may be.

As much as its findings are promoted, however, it may be surprising to learn that science is not a very open endeavor. Often that’s because there’s money involved: funding for the researchers and where they work, money for the scholarly publications so they can keep their presses running. That puts pressure on researchers to be competitive and do research that’s sure to get attention.

Addressing a Growing Crisis

Brian Nosek, executive director and co-founder of the Center for Open Science (COS), warns that in the race to achieve sensational discoveries, science’s storehouse has been polluted with research results that may be fundamentally flawed. Common problems: Many studies are simply too small to be reliable, or research processes have been designed or adapted to produce the desired results.

“Without sharing data, materials, and code, it is easy to be a little sloppy, a little haphazard and a little more flexible with interpretation than the evidence justifies,” Nosek observes.

Now, throughout research communities and across fields as diverse as ecology, neuroscience and psychology, there’s growing recognition of a dysfunctional reward system that undermines the credibility of research. This means weak studies with doubtful findings have earned the legitimacy of being published. But if others try to replicate the findings, they often fail. Or, if they try to translate the findings into solutions or cures, the result is often a dead end.

It’s not that most scientists are intentionally unethical or actively pursuing bad science, Nosek emphasizes. Instead, the problem is more subtle and complex. While openness and reproducibility are broadly endorsed by scientists as core values of scholarship, research culture has incentivized the opposite. Competitiveness and novel experiments have tended to get more articles published in more prestigious journals, leading to more grants, more prestigious jobs and more recognition.

With Templeton Religion Trust among its major funders, COS has become a leader in recognizing the need for fundamental change in how research is done. As an organization of both visionaries and implementers, it’s playing a proactive role in making change happen.

It is COS’s mission to promote openness, integrity, and reproducibility in researchers’ everyday practices, which requires behavior change at scale. That behavior change starts with adoption of registration of the analysis plan and continues with sharing of research data, materials, code, and research findings. The intended goal is to improve the credibility of research, foster intellectual humility among researchers, and, ultimately, accelerate the discovery of knowledge, solutions, and cures.

“How can humankind make the most efficient progress in acquiring knowledge, solutions, and cures? How do we know what’s true? How can we confront and revise our current understanding with new evidence?” Nosek asks. “Our answer: scholarship must be open and reproducible.”

COS has made significant progress in accomplishing those goals through its Open Science Framework (OSF), a cloud-based platform that makes open-source collaboration and project management possible across the research lifecycle. It allows researchers to create projects, preregister their research designs, manage and share their data, materials and code, and then make the findings publicly available. OSF Preprints lets researchers communicate their findings as openly and quickly as possible so others can benefit.

Changing incentives across the complex science ecosystem is a coordination problem.
Brian Nosek

As COS continues to develop infrastructure, it is also building community at the grassroots level through conferences, networking, training, and other activities. It is providing and endorsing incentives and policy solutions for funders, publishers, and institutions through the Transparency and Openness Principles (TOP) guidelines. And it is conducting its own research into the state of the research process and the effectiveness of its initiatives.

The goal of these combined efforts is to increase the openness, integrity and reproducibility of research by making open science practices possible, easy, normative, rewarding, and increasingly required.

Ultimately, it’s a huge undertaking with many interlocking parts. “Changing incentives across the complex science ecosystem is a coordination problem,” Nosek acknowledges. “Institutions, funders, editors, societies, and researchers themselves all need to change their expectations a little or else no change will be effective.”

Changing Norms

Since its founding in 2013, COS has achieved some notable milestones. OSF now has more than 600,000 registered users representing all domains of scholarship. These users have registered more than 100,000 studies and shared millions of data files and other content.

More encouragement: Leading organizations such as the White House Office of Science Technology & Policy (OSTP), CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have developed initiatives that support more rigorous, transparent research and improve the availability of research data, materials and outcomes. Notably, under the leadership of OSTP, all major U.S. federal agencies have participated in declaring 2023 the “Federal Year of Open Science.”

Open science reduces waste and accelerates the discovery of knowledge solutions and cures for the world's most pressing needs.
Brian Nosek

Taken together, these are indicators that open science is becoming a mainstream change initiative, says Nosek. With continuing support from Templeton Religion Trust, COS is continuing to scale and streamline its infrastructure to fast-track even broader and more sustainable adoption of open science practices.

“Open science can reduce waste and accelerate the discovery of knowledge solutions and cures for the world’s most pressing needs,” Nosek says. “It’s not sufficient just to have a technology in place that makes it possible to do it. It’s not sufficient to have a policy in place that says you must do it. It’s not even sufficient to have culture norms that say this is something maybe we should do. It really requires aligning all of those into an integrated strategy to promote a sustainable change.”

Committed to catalyzing change for the good of science, COS offers a practical, accessible and proven means to that end. Within and beyond science, a growing number of people consider it an imperative whose time has come due.


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