While improvements in technology have made openness and transparency in scientific reporting more straight-forward, some researchers are still reticent to share data, material and analysis freely. Efforts to encourage openness and transparency, including education, and policy changes within commercial bodies, grant-awarding agencies and journals have proved successful to a point, but further work is required before open data and material sharing is the norm.
One group of scientists have suggested a novel way to incentivize transparent reporting with the development of the Peer Reviewer’s Openness (PRO) Initiative. With effect from 1st January 2017, this initiative encourages peer reviewers to pledge to refuse to comprehensively review or recommend publication of scientific manuscripts that do not comply with several openness requirements:
- Data should be made publicly available (online), in an accessible and understandable manner, using a reliable web host for long-term storage;
- The materials used for the study should be made publicly available and accessible, including source code;
- If data or materials cannot be made freely available, for example for reasons of anonymity, this should be clearly stated;
- Details for interpreting data or codes, or for accessing and understanding data should be made available;
- The location of all files that are available should be given in the manuscript.
The initiative is growing in momentum following the recent publication of an explanatory article, with 252 individuals from across the world having signed up to the initiative by the 21st January 2016.