Written by Fitsum Mulugeta, Junior Research fellow at the Ethiopian Economics Association and EASST Visiting Fellow in Fall, 2012.
There were a number of reasons that led me to choose research as a career path. Importantly, it is filled with new set of challenges every day and that there is nothing routine about it. In addition to living each day differently, research in development gives me a satisfaction of being able to contribute towards changing the lives of those who are less fortunate. Yet whether we admit it or not, deep down we also want to achieve immortality by contributing to the body of knowledge; contributing something that would be cited even long after we pass away.
Even if it has been a long standing tradition in science and research, it is only recently that I have discovered the ways in which researchers want to share in a different light. This has reignited my reasoning in being and staying a researcher. In my opinion, humanity is greedy in general, as we seek to gather all we can and keep it for ourselves. However, there remains at least one exception: knowledge. Generally speaking, people are happy to share their knowledge, be it in the form of oral literature in traditional communities or in the form of writing books, publishing papers, teaching in universities or conference presentations.
In the realm of research, people seem to be very happy to talk about the projects that they are working on, the papers they have published, the results they have found, and others’ works in similar domains. I’m continually amazed at how willing to share and helpful academics are when it comes to their work. Thus my renewed sense of pride in being a researcher – it is indeed a blessing to be in the group of people who sees sharing as a way of life in the world of greed for finding and keeping things for one’s self.
These were all thoughts that came to mind during the BITSS – IPA workshop on research transparency, held in Kenya this past March. The new wave of sharing knowledge is to share not only what we know, but how we come to know what we know. The workshop covered the following: how to ensure learning as much as we can from research that doesn’t necessarily have ‘significant’ results, how to make research reliable (by sharing the entire research process and reproducing results), what tools do we have to make and share pre-analysis plans, codes, data and reports (which include pre-analysis plan registries, best practices for keeping and sharing codes, tools for version control and collaboration, and tools for making dynamic documents).
There is more to be said about the workshop but I would like to limit myself to the idea of sharing, which is what we love to do in research. The movement towards transparency in the way we do research is the present and the future of research. While it may mean more upfront work, it is an opportunity to say more about our research than what a limited number of pages of published article or few minutes of presentation would reveal. Eventually, the world of social science research will join this path and I think it is better to start the practice soon and learn it as we go rather than trying to catch the train after it has left the station.
For more information on the workshop, you can read the blog posted by IPA here.