Amy Pearson

Senior Lecturer in PsychologyUniversity of Sunderland


Daniel Poole

ResearcherUniversity of Sheffield

For more than a decade, open research has gained widespread support from the scientific community, including autism researchers. However, few people in the field regularly use established open science methodologies.

To solve this problem, a team of UK autism researchers shared some practical tips in an editorial published this month. autismThese tips came from our 2021 online workshop. This workshop grew out of a petition to promote transparency in the 2020 publishing process. The petition was initiated by editorial co-author Hannah Hobson, a lecturer in psychology at York University. The group also has a website called Open Autism Research, with links to lab discussion resources and an ongoing directory of open science autism researchers.

spectrum spoke with two of the editorial’s co-authors about the current push for autism science while Hobson is on vacation. Daniel Poole, Research Fellow in Psychology, University of Sheffield, and Amy Pearson, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, University of Sunderland, share their thoughts on the challenges of doing open science in this area and how to overcome them. did.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

spectrum: What is open research?

Daniel Poole: Open research refers to a range of different techniques and methods centered around increasing credibility and transparency, making it clearer how you arrived at your conclusions for others to review. .

S: What drives open science?

Amy Pearson: In psychology in particular, there has been a long-standing problem of poor reproducibility of widely accepted studies. There has been a movement to conduct research, develop theories, and create more rigorous approaches to testing those theories.

S: What are examples of open research methods applicable to the autism field?

From: What is called “pre-registration” can take many forms. Researchers state what they are going to do before conducting the study. Ideally, this would be a kind of checklist of planning methods and analyzes that you are going to perform. The current gold standard is the so-called “registered report”. Pre-registration documents are peer-reviewed and research is accepted for publication before the study is conducted.

Another example is the use of open materials and shared resources used in research. Researchers can see if they can perform the same analysis as the study authors. And sharing data has additional benefits. A large amount of data about people with autism could be collected, and that data could be used by another researcher so that people with autism would not have to re-enter additional research.

S: What are some of the challenges hindering the widespread adoption of open science in autism research?

APs: One is training. Many open science practices rely on learning how to use and implement methods. For example, various forms of data analysis and ways to organize your code and make it accessible to others. Many researchers struggle to find the time to do so.

It is also an issue for publishers. The number of journals that are set up to receive subscribed reports is fairly limited. Most autism journals don’t currently have the ability to do that.

S: Your editorial mentions the difficulties in integrating qualitative research into the framework of open science. How do you think qualitative research, which often relies on methods such as semi-structured interviews and focus groups, fits in?

APs: Much of the focus of open science is on replication. That’s not necessarily the goal of qualitative research. However, while we may not expect to get the same results every time we do something in qualitative research, the discussion on open science is about what we can do to share good practices from a research policy standpoint. I think there’s room for discussion in there. We can be more transparent about how we organize, code and analyze our data.

Another consideration is how participants feel about open science and their comfort with having the data available. Many people feel hurt by past research and don’t always trust researchers. They may be less inclined to participate in research that makes their data available.

S: How do you plan to address participants’ concerns about data sharing?

APs: My research looks at autistic masking and experiences of interpersonal victimization and prejudice. I will be transparent about our approach, telling participants what types of data are available and that identifying data will be deleted.

Given the nature of our particular project and what we are looking at, we are not comfortable just having someone access the data. We’ve talked about different levels of access to . We have set it up so that if someone wants to request data, they have to contact us.

S: What are the next steps for advancing open science in autism research?

From: Progress is currently on hold as Hannah Hobson and the project’s other lead, autism researcher Cathy Manning, are on vacation. But one hope is that the Open Autism Research website will become a go-to space for information and resources. We are also considering adopting a registration report for an autism journal.

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