Emphasizing the importance of open access to data, three University professors discussed the future of social science research in a panel held in the Hatcher Graduate Library on Thursday.

The panelists invited to present their suggestions included Psychology Prof. Nick Ellis, Assistant History Prof. Michelle McClellan and History Prof. George Alter.

Ellis, who is also an editor for the Language Learning Journal, discussed the publication’s negotiations with Wiley, it’s publisher, to enable more non-Wiley subscribers to obtain access to research methods and data reports of past social science research projects.

“Wiley is more interested in the business model than they are in making us open around the world,” he said. “We have negotiations with them about them subsidizing republication and re-issue in China and India. It is an interesting negotiation.”

Similarly, Alter concentrated on research transparency throughout the majority of his presentation due to his position as the director of the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research. He said promoting research transparency would resolve some of the most frequent criticisms directed toward researchers. Common problems derive from research that is difficult to replicate, fraudulent cases and projects incentivized by profit.

He said the ICPR must first earn the trust of data producers and the public, and provide documentation about where and how data is created.

Alter added that even though Congress and other national agencies have recently expressed support for data transparency for federally funded projects, data restrictions are still an obstacle for many researchers due to privacy concerns.

He also credited the new form of data to the growing forms of technology such as Facebook, smartphones, Twitter, hospitals’ online archives of patients’ histories and even credit card transactions. Alter concluded his presentation anticipating how social research projects will search for new ways to strike a balance between private and open data.

While both expressed transparency as a pillar for successful future social science research projects, McClellan targeted her speech toward transparency between professionals of different disciplines and the public.

McClellan is currently collaborating with Jill Becker, professor of psychology and psychiatry, and Women’s Studies Prof. Beth Glover Reed, on gender and addiction. She specializes in alcoholism in women.

As a veteran interdisciplinary researcher, McClellan advised the audience to “undo” their past understandings and avoid assumptions when teaming up with researchers from other disciplines. She humorously recalled how she once mistakenly thought the testing subjects were humans because Becker referred to lab rats as simply male and female.

“Not only we did not know what we were talking about, (but) in some way, it is even more dangerous because we thought we knew what we were talking about to one another,” she said.

In an interview with The Michigan Daily, McClellan said she wants to incorporate social science knowledge into natural science research to alleviate public confusion over the results scientists present in their findings.

“We are trying to publish something in the scientific journal that says trying to pay attention to the context of how your ideas are being understood,” she said.

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