The value of sharing research materials

Have you ever had one of those moments where you’ve come up with a great research idea and you want to replicate a task that someone else has used, but then you look at the paper again and there’s key methodological details missing? It can feel SO frustrating! You want to use and cite their task, but the author hasn’t made it easy for you and now you need to email them and hope they remember the details.

Dr James Bartlett has recently discussed the value of sharing research materials within the science community. Check out some of the highlights below:

Researchers seldom share the materials used in their experiment, with studies auditing the prevalence of open materials ranging from 1% (Adewumi et al., 2021) to 14% of articles (Hardwicke et al., 2021). Even looking for a lower bar of transparency, just 38% of articles reported where they sourced the images in their cognitive tasks (Pennington et al., 2021). These studies show disappointingly low rates of transparency in materials across areas of psychology. As different areas of science have worked to become more open, being transparent about how you conducted your study is one of the key tenets (Munafó et al., 2017).

Sharing materials is often one of the easiest open science practices to adopt as it does not have to be in the ethics process like open data. This means if you want to try ways of making your research more open and transparent, sharing your materials is one of the easiest starting points.

Gorilla Open Materials overcomes many of the barriers to sharing materials. All you have to do is add a task you already made to an Open Materials page. You provide a description of the task and what it does. For those sweet citation counts, you can add your preferred citation in the top right. The most important aspect is the ease of reuse. There are preview and clone buttons with each task. Previewing the task allows anyone to experience it exactly as the participant did in your browser. This means anyone can see exactly how it worked, without downloading any software or signing up for a Gorilla account. If a researcher wants to inspect, reuse or adapt it in their own work, they can clone the task into their own project. If you use Gorilla for your research, this presents an extremely user-friendly way of facilitating replications of your work.

The movement towards greater transparency in research means sharing materials has never been easier with tools like Gorilla Open Materials, the OSF, and Figshare. However, estimates in psychology of how often researchers share their methods are disappointingly low given how it is one of the easiest parts of the research process to open up. Although it takes extra time, you can be rewarded with the warm fuzzy feeling of helping other researchers, and if that does not motivate you, the potential for a greater number of citations and badges to reward your effort might help. There are different options available for sharing your materials, from Gorilla Open Materials, to sharing your tasks and questionnaires on the OSF. Just remember to make it reusable for other researchers by documenting how it works through a README file. Hopefully, you will see the rewards of greater transparency from researchers being able to reuse and credit your materials as an additional output, to when you need to replicate a study and you find the authors helpfully posted a video demonstrating their procedure.

Have you ever shared materials? What were your experiences? Or perhaps you’ve benefited from someone else sharing their materials! I’d love to chat with you about it :slight_smile: