University of Bristol Statement on Transparency in Research
The University of Bristol (UoB) is committed to transparency and rigour in research across all disciplines, and to continue to improve the ways in which we conduct research. This is part of our broader efforts to enhance the quality of research practice, as outlined in related UoB positions:
- UoB’s institutional vision and strategy emphasises our commitment to responsible research, including a commitment to open research and ensuring open access to research outputs
- UoB’s Statement on Research Integrity sets out our commitment to the highest standards of integrity in all aspects of research as well as observing the Code of Conduct for Research
Approaches to Transparency
We recognise that actions that support transparency in research and scholarship vary considerably across disciplines and methodologies. Therefore, we expect researchers to pursue transparency through the most effective and appropriate means, according to the nature of their research.
Approaches to pursuing transparency may include exploring multiple conclusions that could be drawn from evidence that has been reviewed or produced; publishing research methods, manuscripts or data; or disclosing the approach used when interpreting a text or research evidence. In addition, all potential conflicts of interest should be declared, in line with UoB’s Conflict of Interest Policy.
Making research open is a core part of research transparency, and open research practices are rewarded in promotion decisions (1). We recognise that there is significant variation across disciplines, influencing how appropriate open research practices may be. With this in mind, as far as is possible and appropriate, we expect researchers to:
- make their research methods, software, and outputs, and available at the earliest possible point, according to statements such as the Berlin Declaration
- describe their data according to FAIR Data Principles, ensuring that it is Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable
- deposit their outputs in open access repositories (recognising and adhering to funder requirements, where appropriate):
- publications in repositories such as preprint servers, and the data.bris repository
- research data in repositories such as the data.bris repository or the UK Data Archive. Where subject-specific repositories are used, we recommend using repositories that meet Nature Scientific Data’s trusted repository criteria, such as these recommended repositories
- software in suitable repositories, for example GitHub and Zenodo
We note that exceptions exist where research data should not or cannot be shared, owing to privacy, non-consent, contractual agreements, legislation or practicality. For instance:
- researchers may be allowed access to private archives on the condition that the records accessed are not made open
- data pertaining to research participants should only be shared when this is in line with ethics and privacy policies associated with the research, consent has been provided by participants in line with guidelines (2), and the data can be fully anonymised if necessary
- in some cases, research participants may have agreed to certain data, such as merged data, being shared but not individual data, such as transcripts
- the data could be misused by others with the intention of causing harm
- it may not be possible to share fully raw data for practical reasons, such as the size of the data; data should be at a level of granularity that is feasible to share, while also enabling research methods or results to be reproduced as comprehensively as possible
- it may be necessary to delay publication of research outputs and research data to allow for protection of intellectual property, for example through patenting
- publication of research data or outputs may breach confidentiality of collaborating parties or require their consent under the terms of a collaboration agreement
The reproducibility of both research methods and research results (see Annex for definitions) is critical to research in certain contexts, particularly in the experimental sciences with a quantitative focus.
Reproducibility forms part of UoB’s wider commitment to transparency and rigour in all of our research. We recognise that behaviours in support of transparency and rigour vary considerably across disciplines and methodologies, and encourage our researchers to adopt actions most appropriate to their disciplines.
In the arts, humanities and social sciences, it may be more useful to refer to transparency or academic rigour in the use of research methods and in the whole research process – from the collection of evidence or thoughts through analysis to final conclusions and the publication of findings.
The reproducibility of research methods is required for research to be replicated (see Annex). This, in turn, is essential in research contexts where findings must be robust and reproducible in order to form a solid foundation on which to build further knowledge. In research contexts where reproducibility is possible and appropriate, we strongly encourage researchers to use measures that support it. These include (but are not limited to) the following, where they are appropriate:
- pre-registration of study procedures and analysis plans, and use of registered reports (3)
- transparent reporting of research in line with recognised community guidelines (4)
- disclosure of all tested conditions, analysed measures and results
- transparency around statistical methods*
- use of preprints
- carrying out replication studies
- publication of “null” findings
* including study design generally, sample size planning in particular, and statistical assumptions and pitfalls at all stages of a study.
Munafò et al. have set out a summary of initiatives that support reproducibility (5).
UoB’s work to promote transparency in research
UoB is committed to supporting transparency in research and to developing approaches to improve the quality of the research we produce. This includes:
• continuing to support open research (including through UoB’s promotion criteria) and the necessary cultural change, as discussed in LERU’s policy paper on open science
• the development of governance processes to enable research outputs to be found, accessed, and reused appropriately when open sharing is not appropriate
• the development of additional training, including in research methods, and consideration of how to promote transparency in academic teaching
• improving the sharing of knowledge and best practice across UoB
This statement is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence. Please attribute as ‘Developed from the UCL Statement on Transparency in Research, November 2019’.
1. In the UoB’s promotion criteria the following is a criterion for promotion at every level: “Producing open research outputs as appropriate by adopting good practice in, for example, sharing data and code, sharing materials, sharing digital outputs, publishing preprints and pre-registering study protocols.”
2. Guidance on consent procedures for research participants, including for data sharing, has been produced by the ESRC-funded UK Data Service and the Health Research Authority, while UoB has a number of guides and resources on research data management, ethics and consent.
3. Further information on Registered Reports can be found on the Center for Open Science website.
5. Munafò MR et al. (2017). A manifesto for reproducible science. Nature Human Behaviour, 1, 0021.
See below for Annex containing definitions of terms used in this paper.
Annex 1: Definition of Terms
There are several terms used to refer to the broad issues that the UK Reproducibility Network aims to address, and these are often used interchangeably. Our focus is on ensuring the UK produces robust, rigorous research. Below we list various terms and definitions that are widely used. When terms are used, it is important to be clear which meaning is intended by that word. In the context of the UK Reproducibility Network, the definition closest to our meaning is “results reproducibility” as defined by Goodman and colleagues, but this is not to suggest that it is the “correct” definition.
The Concordat to Support Research Integrity (A1)
Honesty in all aspects of research, including in the presentation of research goals, intentions and findings; in reporting on research methods and procedures; in gathering data; in using and acknowledging the work of other researchers; and in conveying valid interpretations and making justifiable claims based on research findings.
Rigour, in line with prevailing disciplinary norms and standards: in performing research and using appropriate methods; in adhering to an agreed protocol where appropriate; in drawing interpretations and conclusions from the research; and in communicating the results.
Transparency and open communication in declaring potential competing interests; in the reporting of research data collection methods; in the analysis and interpretation of data; in making research findings widely available, which includes publishing or otherwise sharing negative or null results to recognise their value as part of the research process; and in presenting the work to other researchers and to the public.
Care and respect for all participants in, and subjects, users and beneficiaries of research, including humans, animals, the environment and cultural objects. Those engaged with research must also show care and respect for the integrity of the research record.
Accountability of funders, employers and researchers to collectively create a research environment where individuals and organisations are empowered and enabled to own the research process. Those engaged with research must also ensure that individuals and organisations are held to account when behaviour falls short of the standards set by this concordat.
Reproducibility and Replicability in Science (A2)
Reproducibility is defined as obtaining consistent computational results using the same input data, computational steps, methods, code, and conditions of analysis.
Replicability is defined as obtaining consistent results across studies aimed at answering the same scientific question, each of which has obtained its own data
Generalizability refers to the extent that results of a study apply in other contexts or populations that differ from the original one.
Goodman and colleagues (A3)
Goodman and colleagues propose a new terminology to distinguish between the various interpretations of reproducibility. Rather than offer new technical meanings for words whose common language interpretations are nearly identical (such as reproducibility, replicability, and repeatability), they propose to ally the word reproducibility—currently the most widely used single term in this domain—with descriptors for the underlying construct. This yields three terms: methods reproducibility, results reproducibility, and inferential reproducibility.
Results Reproducibility refers to obtaining the same results from the conduct of an independent study whose methods are as closely matched to the original as possible.
Methods Reproducibility refers to the provision of enough detail about study procedures and data so the same procedures could, in principle or actuality, be exactly repeated.
Inferential Reproducibility refers to the drawing of qualitatively similar conclusions from either an independent replication of a study or a re-analysis of the original study.
A1. Universities UK (2019). The Concordat to Support Research Integrity.
A2. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (2019). Reproducibility and Replicability in Science.
A3. Goodman S et al. (2016). What does research reproducibility mean? Science Translational Medicine, 8, 341.