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Unveiling the Truth in Science: The Quest for Reliable Knowledge

Note: PLOS is delighted to once again partner with the Einstein Foundation Award for Promoting Quality in Research. The awards program honors researchers who reflect rigor, reliability, robustness, and transparency in their work. The Einstein Foundation received dozens of stellar submissions. We asked this year’s finalists to write about their research in the run up to the ceremony on March 14th in Berlin. The is the first in our 5-part series.  

Author: Flavio Azevedo, Assistant Professor of Social Psychology, University of Groningen and his FORRT team (bios below).

Scientific research stands as a beacon of progress and innovation, yet its credibility has been threatened by repeated failure to replicate what had been widely believed. So, how can we ensure the reliability of scientific discoveries? This question lies at the heart of an ambitious project seeking to transform the landscape of scientific research, education, and policy.

The Challenge of Replication in Science

At the core of the scientific endeavor is the ability to accumulate knowledge via replication of studies—a fundamental yet often overlooked aspect. Replication involves repeating a study and testing a hypothesis under a variety of similar and different conditions to verify its results are reliable. It’s a litmus test for the robustness of scientific findings. Despite its importance, replication studies struggle with recognition, are less cited, not yet incentivized, and thus underutilized, leading to a skewed understanding of scientific literature. This has led to situations where studies are widely relied on before later replications show that the proposed effect was not real, or at least not generalizable

A Pioneering Solution: The FORRT Replication Database (FReD) Project

To address these issues, the Framework for Open and Reproducible Research Teaching (FORRT) has launched an ambitious project aiming to create a comprehensive, dynamic database cataloging scientific claims and subsequent replication attempts across various disciplines of social, cognitive, and behavioral sciences. This living, crowd-sourced collection not only includes replicated studies but also those that failed to replicate, providing a more complete picture of scientific inquiry.

Empowering Researchers and Educators

FORRT’s initiative extends beyond mere data collection. It involves developing user-friendly tools like Shiny apps, enabling researchers and educators to explore, visualize, and engage with replication data effectively. These tools will foster critical thinking about the planning, access, and integration of replication efforts in research and education.

Making Science Accessible and Credible

The project is set to revolutionize how we view, evaluate, and utilize scientific data. By making replication studies more accessible and understandable, FReD will empower educators and other stakeholders to incorporate these findings into their teaching and work, promoting discussions on the robustness of published research and reducing reliance on outdated evidence. Researchers will gain a valuable resource for generating new knowledge, and the public will access credible, reliable scientific evidence. The database is open to all and aligns with FORRT’s mission to democratize knowledge and higher education resources – in short, opening up science for everyone.

A Step Towards Transparent, Robust Science

The implications of FORRT’s work are profound. By bringing to light the successes and failures of past research, they lay the groundwork for a more transparent, robust, and reproducible scientific process. This is not just about data; it’s about building a culture of accountability, transparency, and integrity in scientific research.

In conclusion, the FReD project promises to enhance our pursuit of reliable knowledge. It’s a reminder that in science, as in life, understanding our past failures and successes paves the way for a brighter, more informed future.

Author biographies:

Flavio Azevedo is a pioneer in developing tools and practices in Open Science and an advocate for a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive Open Science movement. Flavio is a recognized international leader in Open Science and has received prestigious awards for Open Science, including the UKRN Dorothy Bishop Prize, Hidden-REF, JISC Community Champion, and was a finalist at the Einstein Foundation Early-career Research Award on research quality. In 2018, Flavio co-founded FORRT (—an interdisciplinary, international community of 1000+ scholars at all career stages. FORRT integrates Open Science principles into higher education to advance research transparency, reproducibility, rigor, and ethics through pedagogical reform and metascientific research. Flavio is an Assistant Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Groningen. You can follow Flavio on X, LinkedIn, Mastodon, and Bluesky.

Helena Hartmann is a Postdoc in Clinical Neurosciences at the University Hospital Essen. She did her PhD at the University of Vienna. During this time, she was also a visiting researcher at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience in Amsterdam. In her research, she is interested in cognitive factors that influence how we perceive pain in ourselves and in other people, and what happens in the brain during these processes. Her approach to science strongly aligns with open scholarship principles, and she enthusiastically engages in and teaches science communication. At FORRT, she is a community manager and leads the FORRT Replications & Reversals project. Find more information on her website,  You can follow Helena on X, LinkedIn, Mastodon, and Bluesky.

Lukas Röseler is the Managing Director of the recently founded Münster Center for Open Science, where he combines and integrates interdisciplinary approaches to enhance scientific integrity. In his research, he conducts replication studies and creates meta-analytical tools to combine published results with unpublished research. He created the core structure for a meta-analytical Replication Database with placeholder data in 2022 and has been working on it since. You can follow Lukas on X, LinkedIn, Mastodon, and Bluesky.

Lukas Wallrich is a lecturer in Organisational Psychology at the Birkbeck Business School, University of London. In his research, he focuses on intergroup relations and diversity in the workplace, as he wants to find out how different groups can live and work together more justly, harmoniously, and effectively. In addition, he builds tools to support better research practice (e.g., CiteSource, rsprite2) and aims to promote Open Science through teaching and workshops. Find further information on his webpage. You can follow Lukas on X, LinkedIn, and Bluesky.

Leticia Micheli is an Assistant Professor of Social, Economic and Organisational Psychology at Leiden University, the Netherlands. In her research, she investigates the effects of inequality on intergroup relations and social decision-making. At FORRT, she is a community leader and leads the outreach Pedagogies Project, which aims to showcase exemplary instances of integration of Open Science in teaching and mentoring activities in the hopes of inspiring other educators. Together with other FORRT members, she was recently awarded an Open Science grant by the Dutch Research Council to develop a pedagogically-informed, evidence-based, and self-guided program for supporting the teaching of Open Science. You can follow Leticia on X, and Bluesky.

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