OverviewThe Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences (BITSS) is a new effort to promote transparency in empirical social science research. The program is fostering an active network of social science researchers and institutions committed to strengthening scientific integrity in economics, political science, behavioral science, and related disciplines. Central to the BITSS effort is the identification of useful strategies and tools for maintaining research transparency, including the use of study registries, pre-analysis plans, data sharing, and replication.
The demand for more rigorous and credible research has led to prodigious growth in the empirical social sciences. However, problems arising from data mining, specification searching, selective presentation of results, publication bias, and inadequate documentation of hypothesis testing strategies undermine the rigor of this work and call many research findings into question.
BITSS investigates new approaches to research transparency and promotes those that demonstrate the ability to improve rigor and credibility. With its institutional hub at UC Berkeley, the network facilitates discussion and critique of existing strategies, testing of new methods, and broad dissemination of findings through interdisciplinary convenings, special conference sessions, and online public engagement.
Leading scholars identified for actively promoting transparency across a range of social science disciplines met at UC Berkeley in December 2012 for BITSS first official meeting. In the course of this one-day convening, the discussions featured perspectives from biostatisticians, economists, political scientists, and pscychologists—highlighting the group's common goals and areas of agreement, as well as divergent views and experiences.
The December meeting resulted in the development of an online forum of opinion pieces about transparency in social science research published in March 2013. Since the event, a majority of the attendees have remained in close contact with CEGA, expressing their interest in continuing and expanding the activities of BITSS. They have offered a number of concrete recommendations to advance the initiative and have begun to expand the network through referrals.
Moving forward, BITSS aims to advance the scientific frontier of research transparency by providing incentives to scholars beyond the network—through seed grants, merit awards, and public lectures—so as to pull creative people into the area of innovation for transparency.