We present a consensus-based checklist to improve and document the transparency of research reports in social and behavioural research. An accompanying online application allows users to complete the form and generate a report that they can submit with their manuscript or post to a public repository.
Good science requires transparency
Ideally, science is characterized by a ‘show me’ norm, meaning that claims should be based on observations that are reported transparently, honestly and completely1. When parts of the scientific process remain hidden, the trustworthiness of the associated conclusions is eroded. This erosion of trust affects the credibility not only of specific articles, but—when a lack of transparency is the norm—perhaps even entire disciplines. Transparency is required not only for evaluating and reproducing results (from the same data), but also for research synthesis and meta-analysis from the raw data and for effective replication and extension of that work. Particularly when the research is funded by public resources, transparency and openness constitute a societal obligation.
In recent years many social and behavioural scientists have expressed a lack of confidence in some past findings2, partly due to unsuccessful replications. Among the causes for this low replication rate are underspecified methods, analyses and reporting practices. These research practices can be difficult to detect and can easily produce unjustifiably optimistic research reports. Such lack of transparency need not be intentional or deliberately deceptive. Human reasoning is vulnerable to a host of pernicious and often subtle biases, such as hindsight bias, confirmation bias and motivated reasoning, all of which can drive researchers to unwittingly present a distorted picture of their results.
Aczel, B., Szaszi, B., Sarafoglou, A. et al. (2019) A consensus-based transparency checklist. Nature Human Behaviour doi:10.1038/s41562-019-0772-6
Publisher (Open Access): https://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-019-0772-6