New society for open science launched

Dr Andrew Leigh MP
The Hon. Doctor Andrew Leigh MP at the AIMOS launch. Photo credit: Raquel Ashton

Dr Andrew Leigh MP has officially launched AIMOS (the Association for Interdisciplinary Meta-Research and Open Science), an organisation founded by academics from the University of Melbourne, Swinburne and Deakin Universities to promote the new academic field of meta-research aimed at improving scientific culture and practice in Australia and New Zealand.

The aims of the association are to to advocate for the interdisciplinary field of meta-research by bringing together and supporting scholars in that field and to promote open science and best-practice research methods.

Science aims to produce robust knowledge and the concept of reproducible experiments is central to this. However the past decade has seen a ‘reproducibility crisis’ in science.

Across a number of scientific fields, such as psychology and preclinical medicine, large-scale replication projects have failed to produce evidence supporting the findings of many original studies. Meta-research will address this challenge head on.

Founding president of the association University of Melbourne Associate Professor Fiona Fidler said that: “Science is something that humans do. It is self-correcting when, and only when, scientists correct it. AIMOS will bring together the researchers who are making much needed improvements to scientific practice, so that the results of research will be even more reliable.

“In an era when people are wilfully casting doubt on the findings of science, we need to work even harder to improve scientific practice. We must not ignore the replication crisis, and pretend that nothing is wrong. Nor should we allow the crisis to be used as an excuse to disregard science. Instead, we need to better understand the different practices and incentives in different scientific fields, so that we can continue to improve them. This is the goal of the new academic field of meta-research."

In launching the organisation, Dr Andrew Leigh, who has written a book on the importance of research through randomised trials, said: “Good science is insightful. Great science is replicable. As a researcher, I’m committed to publishing my data, and using approaches like randomised trials that are readily replicated.

"As a policymaker, I firmly believe that open science is essential to a learning society. Congratulations to all who have helped build AIMOS, and in so doing to help us better understand the world.”

The launch at the University of Melbourne launch is part of the inaugural AIMOS2019 conference.

Attendees at the conference include researchers from diverse fields such as cancer biology, pharmacology, ecology and conservation science, evolutionary biology, information and library science, psychology, economics and philosophy and sociology of science.

Over two days, attendees will participate in a series of talks and workshops on subjects including how to improve statistical practices, reforms to scientific publishing, the philosophy of scientific practice, and national policy for open science.

The AIMOS conference places a special importance on early career researchers, and the challenges they face in building a career in science while embracing open-science principles.

Recently the University of Melbourne was given $US 6.5 million by DARPA to crowdsource predictions about the replicability of social and behavioural science claims.

The project, lead by Associate Professor Fidler, is called ‘repliCATS’ and works to predict the replicability of research claims through structured group discussion. If successful, the project could save the time and costs associated with directly replicating studies to confirm their reliability.

The association’s Vice President is Dr Mathew Ling from the School of Psychology at Deakin University.

The 2019 AIMOS conference received sponsorship from the University of Melbourne through the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, the School of Biosciences and the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences.