Overview

Reliability and Transparency in the Social Sciences

Enabled by advances in digital technology, the availability of social science research has increased exponentially, and the stakes of making it so have increased with it. Recent high-profile media coverage concerning the practices and reliability of the social sciences has brought it much attention, and not all of which is positive. More accessible data can deepen the reliability of social science, and is called for by funders and an increasing number of journals in a range of fields.  Digital technology also allows for scholars to provide access to the analytical process they use to connect evidence to interpretative and theoretical claims in ways not possible within the space constraints of a journal article.  Making this process “transparent” is central to sustaining a broader scholarly conversation.

While the benefits of access to knowledge for use by the broader research community are many and varied, research transparency as a scholarly value is at times in tension with other values. These include the protection and privacy of human subjects as well as the safeguarding of intellectual property, not trivial for scholars who seek “first use” of the knowledge they produce.  Concerns have also arisen that the emphasis on transparency privileges some methodological and epistemological commitments over others.  

This working group convenes a cross-disciplinary group of scholars to consider the current state of social science reliability and transparency across a variety of approaches, and explores whether and how principles of transparency and data access can be articulated to encompass different fields and ways of producing knowledge on and understanding the social world.