Some scientific prizes reward people for their skills as mentors, or for the quality of their scientific discoveries. But the new Leamer-Rosenthal Prizes for Open Social Science, awarded today for the first time, honor a different kind of achievement: keeping science itself honest.
Created by the Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences (BITSS), the $10,000 prizes recognize social scientists who have contributed to the process of science, either by developing tools to allow others to carry out rigorous research, or by exemplifying such research themselves.
They come at a time when many psychologists, economists, and other social scientists are increasingly concerned about the reliability of results in their field, following widespread failures to replicate published studies, evidence of sloppy but commonly used research practices, and cases of outright fraud. Many researchers are working on innovative solutions to the so-called replicability crisis, including pre-registering experiments before they are done, setting standards for openly sharing methods and data, and even establishing a futures market for science.
The problem is that there are no rewards for taking part in these efforts. Instead, modern science, with its emphasis on publishing in top-tier journals, rewards researchers for making discoveries that are new and surprising—but not necessarily true. “These incentive structures will be slow to change,” says Temina Madon, the director of the BITSS. “We wanted to do something more immediate, to circumvent the very slow process of reform in academia.”