GARRET CHRISTENSEN: An Introduction to BITSS

The Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences (BITSS) was formed in late 2012 after a meeting in Berkeley that led to the publication of an article in Science on ways to increase transparency and improve reproducibility in research across the social sciences. BITSS is part of Berkeley’s Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA), and is led by development economist Edward Miguel and advised by a group of leaders in transparent research from economics, psychology, political science, and public health.
Since our founding, we’ve worked to build a network of like-minded researchers, and focused on the following aspects of research transparency, which hopefully covers the entire lifecycle of a research project:
– Registering Studies: Whether it is clinicialtrials.gov, the AEA’s registryEGAP’s registry, or 3ie’s registry, creating a database of the universe of studies helps combat publication bias.
– Writing Pre-Analysis Plans: Tying your hands a bit by pre-specifying the analysis you plan to run can reduce your ability to consciously or unconsciously mine the data for spurious results.
– Replication and Meta-Analysis: We encourage researchers to conduct and publish replications and meta-analyses so we can build on existing work more systematically.
– Reproducible Workflow: Organizing your research in a way that others (or just your future self) will be able to understand your code and re-run it to get the same results.
– Sharing Data and Code: Put data, code, and adequate documentation in a trusted public repository so that others can more easily build off your work.
To help spread the methods of more transparent and reproducible research, we’ve engaged in the following activities:
– Manual of Best Practices: a how-to guide and reference manual for researchers interested in conducting reproducible research.
– Semester-Long Research Transparency Course: taught by Edward Miguel as Econ 270D, the course is available on YouTube and we are working to make an interactive MOOC.
– Summer Institute and Workshops: an annual training for graduate students and young researchers held each June in Berkeley, featuring lectures from eminent scholars in transparency plus hands-on training in dynamic documents, version control, and data sharing.
– Annual Meeting and Conference Sessions: we host a conference in Berkeley with an open call for papers (coming up December 10 and 11!) and have also organized sessions at past AEA/ASSA meetings and other conferences. This year we’re co-hosting a workshop on replication and transparency in San Francisco January 6-7, right after the AEA meeting. Registration is open now!
– Grants: We had a call for our Social Science Meta-Analysis and Research Transparency (SSMART) grants. Announcements of winners will be made soon, and we plan to have an additional call next year.
– Prizes: We will soon be announcing the first winners of the Leamer-Rosenthal Prizes for Open Social Science—young researchers who have been incorporating transparency in their work as well as established faculty who have been teaching transparency.
If you’re interested in getting involved, we’d love to hear from you. (You can e-mail me: garret@berkeley.edu, or our Program Director Jen Sturdy jennifer.sturdy@berkeley.edu.) We’re working on formalizing a Catalyst program where you could be an ambassador for transparency at your own university or institution and receive BITSS funding for workshops and trainings. Follow us on our blog or on Twitter (@UCBITSS) to hear the latest updates.

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