February 25, 2022

Early career researchers from Limerick and Brunel bring Open Science into health psychology

The European Health Psychology Society (EHPS) Open Science Special Interest Group (SIG) is a collaborative European initiative established in December 2019 and co-chaired by two early career researchers from YERUN universities: Dr Elaine Toomey (University of Limerick) and Dr Emma Norris (Brunel University). 

What is the initiative about?

The OS SIG aims to:

  • Bring together health psychologists and behavioural scientists interested in Open Science (OS)
  • Raise awareness and share OS best practices/innovations with health psychologists and behavioural scientists 
  • Provide guidance and/or training on OS behaviours, methods and tools 
  • Use an evidence-based approach to promote the role of health psychology and behavioural science for improving OS practices across disciplines 
  • Liaise and build collaborations with other OS organisations 
  • Encourage and reward OS behaviours within health psychology. 

What has the OS SIG achieved so far?

Although the SIG is still in its infancy and despite challenges associated with the pandemic, it has achieved great progress to date. The group has an active gender-balanced committee of early and mid-career researchers from five different countries, an advisory group of senior academics from four countries, and a growing SIG membership of 60 members and 393 Twitter followers to date. 

The SIG has produced and disseminated four newsletters and published an open access article about the SIG in the European Health Psychologist (Norris and Toomey, 2020). It has hosted a roundtable launch event, two webinars, three practical workshops and a symposium, all as online events. These training, education and awareness events have covered a wide spectrum of OS topics (e.g. open qualitative research, use of collaborative methods and tools), benefitting and reaching a varied audience across disciplines, beyond just health psychology. For example, the webinars have covered transparent calculation of sample sizes, and sharing qualitative data within clinical trials, and the roundtable launch looked at interoperability and sustainability of open science tools and resources and international strategies to increase OS.

The online events organised by the SIG have an increasing number of participants and its activities have received extremely positive feedback. The SIG also ran an inaugural EHPS SIG Bursary competition for early career researchers in 2021, awarding a free EHPS conference registration to our winner. This achieved several benefits including incentivising and highlighting awareness of OS practices among early career researchers and facilitating the winner to attend the conference and present her research embedded in OS principles to other academics at varied career stages. Funding (€1500) was secured in 2020 to conduct a research prioritisation exercise to obtain consensus on the most important prioritised research questions for OS in health psychology. The project is currently in its final stages and due for completion in January 2023. The benefits of this activity include the facilitation of a co-ordinated, structured and collaborative approach to addressing research gaps in the area, minimised research waste and increased transparency regarding how research in this area should be prioritised and invested in.

How Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reproducible is the practice?

As an underlying principle within the SIG, organisers endeavour to make all their practices and materials as transparent and FAIR as possible. At the outset they created an Open Science Framework page for the SIG where materials and outputs are freely accessible. Newsletters and presentations from all SIG events are hosted here, with video recordings of training events also made available on our YouTube channel. The committee meets approximately five times throughout the year and meeting minutes are also made publicly available on the Open Science Framework page. 

A list of training resources and tools is maintained as an open shared document that can be edited by anyone with the link. The SIG is currently in the process of building a website where this material and information will also be housed. A new Open Science Framework page was created for the SIG’s research prioritisation project to make project outputs available including the pre-registered study protocol, which was created using an Open Science Framework pre-registration template. 

In taking these actions, organisers have made their practices easily replicable by other initiatives and institutions. They have also recently run a practical workshop for the School of Psychology in the University of Aberdeen to outline how their practices can be replicated within their school to create a similar community of practice. They are currently evaluating this workshop to develop a template for other institutions to follow and employ similar approaches to enhance OS practices and build culture of transparency within their institution. As part of their initiative, they also liaise with EHPS governance to ensure that annual conference outputs are FAIR and freely available. They are currently working with the governance to streamline conference submission systems with THE Open Science Framework. They also liaise with EHPS governance regarding the society’s journal publication models to promote consideration of alternative publication and peer review models, such as establishing an open publishing platform.

How will the award be used?

As the initiative is currently unfunded and run by committee members in their spare time, the award will be primarily used to provide them with additional capacity to address current priorities and advance SIG activities. Specifically these are: 

  1. Website and resource collation: Although a website domain will be provided free of charge by the European Health Psychology Society, additional capacity is required to collate existing resources, organise resources into useful categories for health psychologists and behavioural scientists, and upload material onto the website. A portion of the funding (€2250) will be used to hire a research assistant or student for a short–term project to work on this, and to develop a standard operating procedure that will enable SIG members to easily update the resources on an ongoing basis, thus ensuring the sustainability and maintenance of this resource. The researcher hired will also help develop and implement a dissemination strategy to promote this resource and grow our membership to ensure maximum impact of our activities. 
  2. Conduct primary research on identified research priorities: A research prioritisation project which will identify the most urgent priorities for open science research in health psychology is currently being completed. Another portion of the funding (€2250) will be used to hire another research assistant or student for additional capacity to work on the research project that is identified as the highest priority. 
  3. Expanding the ECR bursary: Our inaugural ECR bursary prize comprised of waived annual conference fees for 2021 facilitated by the EHPS. Winners would like to expand this bursary to a monetary amount (€500) to enhance the prestige associated with it. This will also serve to garner further attention for the bursary including from supervisors and principal investigators, as our previous research has identified the influences of senior colleagues as particularly important factor influencing practice of open science behaviours by early career researchers, as well as highlighting the key role of incentives in facilitating open science behaviours (Zecevic et al., 2021). 

About the applicants

Dr Elaine Toomey is a Lecturer in the University of Limerick. Dr Toomey’s research focuses on behaviour change for chronic disease prevention/management, and enhancing the methods used for implementing health research into policy and practice. Dr Toomey is a keen advocate for open science and Co-Chair of the European Health Psychology Society’s Open Science Special Interest Group. She is also a Catalyst for the Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences (BITSS), a member of the Health Research Board Open Research National Steering Committee and the University of Limerick Open Research Working Group. Elaine was awarded a Leamer-Rosenthal Prize for Open Social Science for Emerging Researchers from the University of California Berkeley and shortlisted for a Euroscience European Young Researcher Award (EYRA) finalist (2020) for her work in fidelity and transparency of behaviour change interventions. 

Dr Emma Norris is a Lecturer in Brunel University. Dr Norris is a researcher in behaviour change and health psychology, exploring evidence synthesis of behaviour change interventions, as well as development and assessment of physical activity, smoking cessation and digital interventions. Dr Norris is also an advocate for Open Science, interested in designing behaviour change interventions to facilitate Open Science behaviours in researchers. Dr Norris is Co-Chair of the European Health Psychology Society’s Open Science Special Interest Group, Chair of Brunel Open Research Working Group and the UK Reproducibility Network Local Network Lead. We came together as EHPS members with a shared passion for improving open science within health psychology and behavioural science.

Related News