Ditch the File Drawer: Comprehensive Public Dissemination

How can you help fight the file drawer problem? Eliminate your file drawer!

Comprehensive public dissemination (CPD) is a commitment by an individual researcher to publicly post the basic methods and results of all empirical research that they conduct. Some researchers are already leading the way by doing a great job of tracking their research work flows in open and transparent ways (Lorne CampbellKatie Corker). CPD can serve as an important extension to these practices. As Will Gervais noted in his excellent post on emptying one’s file drawer, pre-prints offer a low effort mechanism for the dissemination of null results or other unpublished work. Taking the final step of briefly summarizing and sharing the methods and results of your data collection projects is not an overly burdensome step, and it could be greatly beneficial to the consumers of your research.

Draft CPD Initiative Statement and Guidelines

The results of scientific research must be comprehensively disseminated for researchers and the public to fully evaluate the evidence for any scientific finding and to generate cumulative knowledge. If a research project is worth conducting, its outcomes are worth disseminating. By publicly disseminating all research results, scientists can help combat problems that distort the body of scientific evidence, such as the file drawer problem and publication bias. I therefore agree that, from this date forward,

I will publicly disseminate the methodology and outcomes of all of my scientific work.

Suggested standards to become a comprehensive public disseminator:

  1. Create a comprehensive public dissemination (CPD) log with version control (spreadsheet on OSF, for example)
  2. Share a link to your CPD log (on your homepage, OSF account, twitter profile, etc.)
  3. At the beginning of data collection for any project, add the project to your CPD log and post an initiated date
  4. At the conclusion of data collection, post a completion date
  5. Disseminate your work in any manner you desire: publish a paper, present at conference, write a brief summary and post it to a public repository, etc.
  6. Provide a link to the dissemination product on your CPD log
  7. Repeat steps 3 through 6 for all projects

Why Would I?

You may be wondering, “what’s in it for the researcher?” First, I assume you mean, “what’s in it for the researcher besides doing their part to save the entire enterprise of science?” By signing on to CPD you can send a strong signal to others that you take open and transparent science seriously and are willing to “play ball.” CPD will also increase the confidence that others have in your published work. Joe Hilgard made a similar point in this post on publishing null results.

An Illustrative Hypothetical Scenario

CPD can complement and amplify the efficacy of other open science practices by providing the full data collection context for new findings. Imagine that researchers X and Y have each found a novel and exciting effect. Both publish papers on these effects, with what appears to be equally strong evidence from a single pre-registered study with a large N. If both have signed on for CPD, the full context of their findings is available for you to assess. You look at the CPD logs of each.

  • Researcher X has conducted two pilot studies on the new effect to refine methods and materials followed by the pre-registered study.
  • Researcher Y has conducted 17 similar pre-registered studies that appear to be close variants of the published study.

Are you equally confident in the replicability of the effects published by researcher X and researcher Y? I am not. Without CPD we would not have this important context for the published evidence. The promise of pre-registration is that it demarcates exploratory and confirmatory research. This promise may not be fully realized without CPD.

Just imagine if Deryl Bem kept a CPD log

I am actively seeking folks who want to contribute to the development and dissemination of this idea. Drop me a line at cchartie@ashland.edu.

My new CPD log.