[Excerpts taken from the blog “What development economists talk about when they talk about reproducibility …” by Luiza Andrade, Guadalupe Bedoya, Benjamin Daniels, Maria Jones, and Florence Kondylis, published on the World Bank’s Development Impact blog]
“Can another researcher reuse the same code on the same data and get the same results as a recently published paper?…This question motivated teams from the World Bank, 3ie, BITSS/CEGA, J-PAL, and Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) to host researchers from the US Census Bureau, the Odum Institute, Dataverse, the AEA, and several universities at the first Transparency, Reproducibility, and Credibility research symposium last Tuesday.”
“…research practitioners discussed their experiences in panels focused on three key topics: defining transparency in research; balancing privacy and openness in data handling; and practical steps forward on credible research. Here we share some of the highlights of the discussions.”
“‘Reproducibility’ and ‘replicability’ are often confused (case in point: a ‘push-button replication’ is in fact a check for computational reproducibility). Prof. Lorena Barba, one of the authors of a 2019 report by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, offered the following definitions. Reproducibility means ‘computational’ reproducibility: can you obtain consistent computational results using the exact same input data, computational steps, methods, code, and conditions of analysis? Replicability means obtaining consistent results across separate studies aimed at answering the same scientific question, each of which has obtained its own data.
“Complete data publication, unlike reproducibility checks, brings along with it a set of serious privacy concerns, particularly when sensitive data is used in key analyses. The group discussed a number of tools developed to help researchers de-identify data (PII_detection from IPA, PII_scan from JPAL, and sdcMicrofrom the World Bank). But is it ever possible to fully protect privacy in an era of big data?…we need additional institutional investments to create permanent, secure, and interoperable infrastructure to facilitate restricted and limited access to sensitive data.”
“Finally, the group discussed practical steps to advance the agenda of reproducibility, transparency, and credibility in research. Ideas included incorporating transparent practices into academic training at all levels and verifying computational reproducibility of all research outputs within each institution. Pre-publication review, for example, is a practice DIME has instituted department-wide: over the past two years, no working paper has gone out without computational reproducibility being confirmed by the Analytics team.”
“In a particularly relevant presentation, Guadalupe Bedoya from DIME presented data from a recent short survey designed to survey practitioners’ application of classic “best practices” that are fundamental to reproducible research. The team surveyed principal investigators in top development economics organizations based on the IDEAS ranking and received responses from 99 PIs, as well as from 25 DIME research assistants…On a scale from 1 to 5, PIs that responded rate their preparedness to comply with the AEA’s new policy at 3.5.”
“One issue cited by researchers is the high entry cost to changing their workflow to absorb new practices. Many respondents worried that enforcing reproducibility standards would only accentuate the inequality between researchers. The fear articulated by some respondents was that well-established researchers, have more access to funds, training and staff (e.g. more research assistants)–all of which lower the entry costs.”