Background: The reproducibility policy at the journal Biostatistics rewards articles with badges for data and code sharing. This study investigates the effect of badges at increasing reproducible research. Methods: The setting of this observational study is the Biostatistics and Statistics in Medicine (control journal) online research archives. The data consisted of 240 randomly sampled articles from 2006 to 2013 (30 articles per year) per journal. Data analyses included: plotting probability of data and code sharing by article submission date, and Bayesian logistic regression modelling. Results: The probability of data sharing was higher at Biostatistics than the control journal but the probability of code sharing was comparable for both journals. The probability of data sharing increased by 3.9 times (95% credible interval: 1.5 to 8.44 times, p-value probability that sharing increased: 0.998) after badges were introduced at Biostatistics. On an absolute scale, this difference was only a 7.6% increase in data sharing (95% CI: 2 to 15%, p-value: 0.998). Badges did not have an impact on code sharing at the journal (mean increase: 1 time, 95% credible interval: 0.03 to 3.58 times, p-value probability that sharing increased: 0.378). 64% of articles at Biostatistics that provide data/code had broken links, and at Statistics in Medicine, 40%; assuming these links worked only slightly changed the effect of badges on data (mean increase: 6.7%, 95% CI: 0.0% to 17.0%, p-value: 0.974) and on code (mean increase: -2%, 95% CI: -10.0 to 7.0%, p-value: 0.286). Conclusions: The effect of badges at Biostatistics was a 7.6% increase in the data sharing rate, 5 times less than the effect of badges at Psychological Science. Though badges at Biostatistics did not impact code sharing, and had a moderate effect on data sharing, badges are an interesting step that journals are taking to incentivise and promote reproducible research.
Sharing data and code are important components of reproducible research. Data sharing in research is widely discussed in the literature; however, there are no well-established evidence-based incentives that reward data sharing, nor randomized studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of data sharing policies at increasing data sharing. A simple incentive, such as an Open Data Badge, might provide the change needed to increase data sharing in health and medical research. This study was a parallel group randomized controlled trial (protocol registration: doi:10.17605/OSF.IO/PXWZQ) with two groups, control and intervention, with 80 research articles published in BMJ Open per group, with a total of 160 research articles. The intervention group received an email offer for an Open Data Badge if they shared their data along with their final publication and the control group received an email with no offer of a badge if they shared their data with their final publication. The primary outcome was the data sharing rate. Badges did not noticeably motivate researchers who published in BMJ Open to share their data; the odds of awarding badges were nearly equal in the intervention and control groups (odds ratio = 0.9, 95% CI [0.1, 9.0]). Data sharing rates were low in both groups, with just two datasets shared in each of the intervention and control groups. The global movement towards open science has made significant gains with the development of numerous data sharing policies and tools. What remains to be established is an effective incentive that motivates researchers to take up such tools to share their data.
The foundation of health and medical research is data. Data sharing facilitates the progress of research and strengthens science. Data sharing in research is widely discussed in the literature; however, there are seemingly no evidence-based incentives that promote data sharing. Methods A systematic review (registration: doi.org/10.17605/OSF.IO/6PZ5E) of the health and medical research literature was used to uncover any evidence-based incentives, with pre- and post-empirical data that examined data sharing rates. We were also interested in quantifying and classifying the number of opinion pieces on the importance of incentives, the number observational studies that analysed data sharing rates and practices, and strategies aimed at increasing data sharing rates. Results Only one incentive (using open data badges) has been tested in health and medical research that examined data sharing rates. The number of opinion pieces (n = 85) out-weighed the number of article-testing strategies (n = 76), and the number of observational studies exceeded them both (n = 106). Conclusions Given that data is the foundation of evidence-based health and medical research, it is paradoxical that there is only one evidence-based incentive to promote data sharing. More well-designed studies are needed in order to increase the currently low rates of data sharing.