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Leiden University Libraries & Elsevier seminars on Reproducible Research

Leiden University Libraries (UBL) in partnership with Elsevier will host a series of online seminars on the challenges involved in achieving reproducibility in research. The seminars aim to identify best practices that can help to overcome central challenges around reproducibility, and to convey several concrete guidelines that can help researchers during their attempts to make their own research transparent and verifiable. While discussions of crucial theoretical concepts will get ample attention, the seminars will also showcase concrete experiences gained during various case studies. The seminars will be held on Thursday 22 April, 29 April and Wednesday 12 May.

Reproducible Research

The aim to achieve reproducibility forms one of the central drivers of the open science movement. It has often been assumed that, when researchers offer access to their data, and when they diligently document their methods, their work can in turn enable peers to replicate their analyses, and to verify their conclusions. It has been stressed, moreover, that reproducibility can produce value for a wide range of stakeholders in the field of academia. For researchers, reproducibility ensures transparency, and it enables peers to assess the reliability of academic findings. By conducting research in a reproducible manner, researchers may enhance their accountability, and, additionally, their reputation.

Reproducibility may also benefit students and scholars in training. By studying and replicating research methodology designed by experienced researchers, they can familiarise themselves with the conventions and the minutiae of specific research methods. This may, in turn, inspire students to emulate these examples. Achieving greater verifiability of academic findings can be of importance to academic publishers too, since such efforts could be viewed as a form of peer review. By replicating particular results, publishers could ensure the reliability of the findings they disseminate. Reproducible research can be valuable to funding agencies, finally, as it ultimately fosters the reuse of research materials. When data can be reused beyond the context in which they were created, financial resources could be utilised in a much more effective and judicious manner.

Challenges

Over the last few years, numerous authors have decried the emergence of a ‘replication crisis’ in fields such as Medicine, Psychology and Biology. Despite recent progress, the transition to reproducible research still faces multiple challenges. Publishing data in agreement with the FAIR data management principles can be very labour-intensive, and the need to document workflows and methodologies invariably demands a string sense of discipline. For researchers aiming to make their research fully reproducible, the concrete steps to be followed are often unclear. Researchers attempting to replicate specific studies have often found that data sets referenced in publications are often inaccessible or incomplete, and papers frequently lack the details needed to repeat certain analyses. In the case of older research, experiments may have been conducted using outdated or obsolete software. And even when the data and the methods are fully transparent, replicated research might still yield results that diverge from the findings of the original studies.

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Programme

Seminar 1: Rationale and benefits (Thursday 22 April - 15:00-17:00 CEST)

This seminar addresses the overall rationale of reproducible research. The speakers in the session explore the scholarly and the societal benefits of reproducibility in research, along with the actions that may need to be taken to expedite the cultural change that is needed to make the transition to reproducible research practices.

  • Welcome (15 min): Introduction to the lecture series.
  • Lecture (30 min): Dorothy Bishop, Professor of Developmental Neuropsychology, University of Oxford. Reproducibility: A crisis for scientists or society?
  • Break (5 min)
  • Lecture (30 min): Brian Nosek, co-Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Open Science and Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Virginia. Improving reproducibility of research.
  • Panel discussion (40 min): Actions need to effectuate a cultural change. Panel discussion focusing on stakeholder analysis: Researchers, Publishers, Funders.

Seminar 2: Theoretical session (Thursday 29 April - 15:00-17:00 CEST)

The second session aims to discuss the phenomenon of reproducibility mainly on a conceptual level. As one of its central questions, this seminar examines the scope and limits of the reproducibility. Should the call for replication be targeted mainly towards those disciplines following a quantitative or empirical approach?

  • Welcome (20 min): Recapitulation of session 1 and introduction of the topic.
  • Lecture (30 min): Christof Schöch, Professor of Digital Humanities, Trier Center for Digital Humanities. A Typology of Reproducible Research: Concepts, Terms, Examples.
  • Break (5 min)
  • Lecture (30 min): Bart PendersAssociate Professor Metamedica, School for Public Health and Prim Care, Fac. Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, Maastricht University. The right tool for the job? Replication as research norm.
  • Break (5 min)
  • Lecture (30 min): Peter Verhaar, Lecturer at Book & Digital Media Studies, Leiden University. Illustration: accountability and reproducibility in the digital humanities.  

Seminar 3: Practical session (Wednesday 12 May - 15:00-17:00 CEST)     

The speakers in the third session explain the concrete steps can researchers take to make their research reproducible. It offers insights on the  aspects of the research project that need to be documented, and on the type of resources that need to be made available.  

  • Welcome (15 min): Recapitulation of session 1 & 2 and introduction of the topic.
  • Lecture (20 min): Catriona Fennell, Director Journal Services, Elsevier. Role of the publisher.
  • Lecture (30 min): Vicky Rampin, Reproducibility librarian, New York University. Which actions can researcher take to make their research more reproducible?
  • Break (15 min)
  • Lecture (30 min): Kristina Hettne, Digital Scholarship Librarian, Centre for Digital Scholarship, Leiden University Libraries. Introduction: What does a replication study entail on a concrete level? 
  • Lecture (30 min): Kristina Hettne. Information on version control, data cleaning (e.g. OpenRefine), documentation in Jupyter Notebook; FAIRification.
  • Break (10 min)
  • How to ‘ReproHack’ (30 min): Kristina Hettne. Workshop in which participants are explained how to reproduce the results of a study + discussion of challenges.

Collaboration with Elsevier

In 2019, Leiden University Libraries and Elsevier jointly hosted a symposium on Tools Criticism and a public lecture by visiting Scaliger Professor Ted Underwood, Professor of Information Sciences and of English, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: "The Role of the Humanities in an Information Age". Elsevier also sponsors the UBL Fellowship Program for Digital Scholarship. This fellowship offers researchers the unique opportunity to conduct computational research in close cooperation with the Centre for Digital Scholarship (CDS) at Leiden University Libraries. The fellowship program supports researchers during a two-month stay in Leiden. In the fellowship, special attention will be paid to the ways in which research findings can be made reproducible and FAIR. Paolo Rossini, for instance, spent two months at the CDS thanks to an Elsevier Fellowship for Digital Scholarship. Using digital tools, he reconstructed the networks of René Descartes and his followers from epistolary sources.

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