A new interdisciplinary Research Initiative MetaMelb is leading the charge on improving science from the inside out. Where other branches of the philosophy of science are take an external look at the discipline, taking note of the achievements and failures of science after the work has already been completed, metascience research aims to get in at the ground floor and improve science as it is happening.
MetaMelb work on wide range of projects on research quality, journal practices and transparency (among other things) in a wide range of disciplines including psychology, ecology, education, medicine and economics. One large project which has already received a lot attention is the repliCATS project. It focuses on on improvement research in social and behaviour sciences through post-publication evaluation run by the repliCATS team. The team has evaluated over 4000 published papers in an effort to improve prediction of key credibility indicators, like replicability, robustness, validity and generalisability of results.
The team at MetaMelb draws from as wide a range of disciplines as possible, allowing them to see the problem from as many points of view as possible. The team is co-lead by Fiona Fidler, a philosopher of science with a background in psychology and founder of Association for Interdisciplinary Meta-research & Open Science (AIMOS); and Simine Vazire, a professor of psychology with a strong interest in philosophy of science, and founder of the Society for the improvement of Psychological Science (SIPS). The rest of the team draws from a wide variety of areas of expertise, and include both historians and philosophers of science and scientists themselves, from both the University of Melbourne and further afield.
MetaMelb recognises the importance of collaboration between science and humanities in order to create the best research team. Philosophers of science, either with a scientific or a humanities background, will often make observations that scientists working inside the community simply don't pick up on, because it has become par for the course for them. Collaboration with working scientists is then essential to make the necessary changes to the discipline. Interdisciplinary collaboration provides the clearest and most nuanced overall picture, allowing the best analysis for improvement. Metascience research would not be possible without the work of those in both the sciences and the humanities.
“The “meta” in MetaMelb stands for either metascience or meta-research. The terms are commonly used interchangeably, and as an interdisciplinary research group we happily embrace this plurality.”
Earlier this year, nine members of the MetaMelb team travelled to the National Academy of Science in Washington DC to take part in the Metascience conference. The conference featured talks from a variety of researchers interested in the improvement of science through metaresearch. The Metascience conference is important as it provides an opportunity for these researchers to talk about our metascience research, and for publishers and funders to hear about how the incentives that are baked into their operations affect the practice of science. We can discuss with them new models for resource allocation, the dissemination of research, and research evaluation, including peer review.
One of the MetaMelb team, Fallon Mody ran a discussion session on the importance of working towards geographical diversity in Metascience. Having senior people in publishing at a session like that is useful, because it means a greater chance on institutional follow through on ideas like, for example, increasing diversity in the peer review pool.
Other MetaMelb presentations included a paper by Simine Vazire on Who’s afraid of open science? Transparency as a threat to unearned prestige, Tom Hardwicke about How should journals handle scientific criticism?, Beth Clarke on The Prevalence of Replications in Psychology, and Dan Hamilton on Frequency of data and code sharing in medicine: Final results of an individual participant data meta-analysis of meta-research studies.
The group also attended a preconference special event celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Center for Open Science, where Fiona Fidler and Elliot Gould talked about new models for Adaptive Pre-registration and how the Open Science Framework supported their work on repliCATS.
Metascience, metaresearch, MetaMelb