In this episode, we get to know our new co-host!
The Open Update podcast is a space to have conversations and continuously update what it means to be open. In season 3, co-hosts Sarahanne Field and Chris Hartgerink, discuss how power imbalances affect efforts to improve research, and the world beyond.
[00:00:00] Chris Hartgerink: Welcome back to the Open Update. This is the first episode of season three. For Liberate Science, I'm Chris Hartgerink and I'm joined by our co-host today.
[00:00:09] Sarahanne Field: Hi, I'm Sarahanne!
[00:00:10] Chris Hartgerink: In this new season, we'll be going on a bit of a different track from the first two seasons. We'll be talking more about power dynamics in research, how it affects how research is done, but also how the conditions for research are created and include aspects that we don't talk about as much, when we're trying to improve research.
There are many dimensions to power dynamics, and with our new co-host, Sarahanne, we have a great opportunity to bring some new topics to the table and engage you in discussions. This is also an open invitation for you to join in on our discussions.
Sarahanne, I wanted to ask you, when you hear power dynamics, what are some of the first things that come to mind for you?
[00:01:03] Sarahanne Field: I come from a perspective of thinking about things in terms of science reform.
When we think about science reform, we're talking about a movement that has come out of the traditional scientific community and there is always a risk that it inherits some of those problems with power dynamics. The scientific research community is going to be the basis for the population in the science reform community.
I'm always looking for ways to to dissolve some of those power imbalances that may potentially be inherited.
[00:01:47] Chris Hartgerink: To tickle that a bit, do you think that in this reform movement we have a 1% who is influencing where we're going?
[00:01:55] Sarahanne Field: I don’t know if I see it quite so clearly. I think that the way that power is distributed in the science reform community is just different. We still have these problems potentially with hierarchies and with say elite or powerful members within that community.
They have the potential to be the same kinds of people. When I say the same kinds of people I mean senior white males from wealthy institutions in the global North, for example.
I think reform has really switched things up when it comes to who has power in science. Before reform started becoming more impactful, people who had high H-indexes and people who publish in high impact factor journals, they are the ones who had the power.
But now people who have power in the science reform movement are potentially people who are really good at all of the open science things. People who have the resources to always publish registered reports, to always be sharing their data because they don't have sensitive data. And so we need to be thinking about how power is distributed, whether it's different or the same as the traditional system.
We need to be interrogating that and questioning that at every point.
[00:03:18] Chris Hartgerink: For the people who don't know you, where are you coming from? What stage of your career are you in?
[00:03:25] Sarahanne Field: The first thing I ever really did in research was meta scientific. My first research study ever, the first thing I ever published was a pair of replication studies, and that project started in early 2014. At that point I first heard about replication and reproducibility problems from very quantitative perspective.
So I have an undergraduate in psychology and quite a quantitative background. My perspective at that point was “Yeah, replicate all the things!” I was really zealous, I was so excited thinking, oh my goodness, we can test out if there's truth, if this is true.
It was such a binary way of thinking.
That's really softened over time. Although people who know me would say I'm really opinionated and I can be, I've really become very nuanced when it comes to issues surrounding reform, about transparency. Reform looks so different to so many different people. There's so much variability in how people experience reform and how they can enact reform in their own research process and, so for me, I've really become a little more nuanced.
I think pre-registration is great, but it has its problems. And you could say the same thing for any science reform initiative that you could ask me about.
Where do I come from?
I'm a mixed methodologist, so I don't have any particular marriage to one kind of methodology or approach or another. So I can see how science reform can be done differently depending on, what kind of a methodological approach you use, how you analyze data or research material, what possibilities there are for sharing. I guess I have a somewhat balanced view with a lot of things.
But I will also say that I'm fairly critical of the science reform movement. Although I consider myself a science reformer. I am also very cautious of drinking the Kool-Aid. I want to talk about things and interrogate initiatives before just assuming that we should all adopt them and that they're great. I like questioning and pushing the boundaries of, discussion about them. And that's why I'm really excited to be on the podcast because I see an opportunity for doing that with input from listeners.
[00:05:46] Chris Hartgerink: I keep remembering your dissertation “Charting the constellations of the Science Reform.” What struck me in that was how reflexive you are in the steps you take, to qualify what statements you can make.
Last season we had James Bridle on the show and he also very clearly said that the thing that sets researchers apart is not knowing things, but it's about them knowing what they're uncertain about and being able to, quantify, but at least qualify that.
I asked this question “where do you come from?” thinking I'm gonna get a bit of backstory. But in terms of you come from Australia originally, you moved to the Netherlands. But this is also the beauty of communication that it could go many ways.
For this season, we're talking about these power dynamics and I've said so often so our listeners will remember this. We're trying to bring this into the discussion and have all of these different elements come in.
I'm a white European colonizer. I understand my personal dynamics and how my Dutch history plays into how the world has evolved. And I wonder how that is for you with an Australian background, with a completely different kind of history.
[00:07:01] Sarahanne Field: I am only, I guess I would say, a second generation Australian. My not so distant ancestors had committed, I believe it was grand larceny in, in England.
[00:07:13] Chris Hartgerink: What's grand larceny again?
[00:07:16] Sarahanne Field: Heaps of stealing. Heaps of stealing.
[00:07:20] Sarahanne Field: And arson as well. Setting fire to things. I'm from that kind of stock and that's always been something that I thought was really. funny. Because, my ancestors were sent over to Australia for infringements to the law, and I always like to push the boundaries of what's acceptable.
I always, I feel that in myself, this, I'm attributing to having convict ancestors but really I think it's just, it's also what I'm like, but pushing the boundaries of what's acceptable. Not stealing so much or setting fighter stuff!
Pushing the boundaries of what people think is acceptable, and I think when I first started learning about what you were doing, Chris, that really spoke to me on that level, pushing boundaries and saying “Okay, what we think is okay let's talk about that.”
Let's push those boundaries. And so I think that's something that sort of has stuck with me about my own heritage. I feel quite humble. I was brought up speaking one language, which is in comparison to everyone in Europe who speaks at least two. I feel like I have quite a humble background and though I am, I don’t know if that necessarily makes me feel like more of an imposter as a result.
I certainly feel that I come from a very humble background and as though I need to prove myself.
[00:08:36] Chris Hartgerink: . Thanks for sharing a bit about that and I remember that we met in. 2018, if I'm correct?
[00:08:43] Sarahanne Field: That's right. Yep.
[00:08:44] Chris Hartgerink: And I think this was also the time that it was the first presentation of the idea that is now ResearchEquals.
[00:08:52] Sarahanne Field: I hadn't seen anything like what you were presenting that day before. It was such an avant-garde idea. I remember thinking “oh my goodness, this is someone that I've gotta watch!” Like big watch this space kind of thing.
I just thought this Chris guy, he's, I really want to keep an eye on him because. This idea was just, listeners are going to know, about the platform in general this idea of modular publishing. At that point it was only a single idea on a handful of slides for me.
It's been actually incredible to see the journey that you've taken to, to make that into a reality. It's just incredible.
[00:09:33] Chris Hartgerink: This podcast has definitely been a part of that journey. One of the things about this season of the podcast that is really exciting me is to talk more about these power dynamics.
Because I remember of the things that for me became clear in the past year or so through conversations with you and with other people, is we often talk about this reform movement as if it is an escalator. We just level up.
What I hope with this season is to really talk more about these power dynamics and these power struggles that are taking place that highlight this isn't an escalator. This is a continuous fight to make these changes that we want to see. And then other people fighting to make either other changes to undo the changes.
It's all very much a political arena. I'm very much looking forward to discussing that with you and to hear also from the listeners what that means in their environments, because we're also all in different political arenas. What in the long run we can all do to organize in those places. And very excited to talk more about these things over, this season and beyond.
I think that also very much brings us already to the end stages of this first episode. So I think that maybe just to tickle the idea ideas for the season and also to tickle the listeners: What would be three dimensions of power dynamics or power struggles that you are excited to talk about
I can start off with mine to give you a bit of time to think about this.
I'm very excited to talk about the upcoming labor strikes in the uk from the union at the universities. I think that's very much related to reforming science. This is a political arena.
Then one of things is I would love to also talk more about how precarious contracts relate to bad research.
And then finally, I want to talk about how we individualize some of these issues by talking about how people, have to deal with their mental health and secure their own spaces when they're bearing the brunt of all of the things that are wrong.
Just a few, small topics for me.
[00:11:52] Sarahanne Field: Yeah just little tiny ones. Just blips on the radar.
One thing that I'm really really interested in is thinking about practices inside reform from this whole idea of the moral economy. Bart Penders introduced this in a paper that came out recently
I'd love to discuss that idea of there being reform elites that have these levels of etiquette, of scientific etiquette that relate to reform practices and how people, have to continually reach higher and higher to reach these thresholds. And that determines who's peripheral in the community. It makes people peripheral if you choose to not follow those practices or if you can't keep up. Who's peripheral then and can that be changed?
I think there's an extent to which hierarchy is almost a homeostasis. It's almost like science keeps promoting or encouraging this hierarchy because that's just the state it's comfortable at. Almost as if there's a water level that needs to just be maintained. That's something I'd love to talk about with listeners.
Another sort of thing I'd really like to talk about with some listeners is the idea that some people genuinely see science as being value free. That's something that really interests me and I think the people who have the privilege to see science as value free, how they perceive certain power problems in science and how they see that problem or that systemic issue within that structure. That's also something that relates to this issue that I'd really like to explore, but I dunno if that's too nebulous.
[00:13:45] Chris Hartgerink: We'll definitely have a challenge to thread the needle on all these different topics and still keep it digestible because it's very easy to go super scholarly on this.
This is also a great point to start wrapping it up.
Thank you for listening! We got our new co-host, Sarahanne, and this is only the first episode of a whole season. Before we started recording we decided the season is undefined. So who knows how long we go, how far we go, and how far you go along with us, that's up to you. But be sure to subscribe on your podcast provider of choice.
I think by now, people also always say, please leave a rating on Apple Podcasts because that's helps people discover it. So if that's something you do, we won't stop you.
We're planning on releasing a brief podcast every other week, so keep an eye out for it and let us know if you have any ideas and any final words for this episode.
[00:14:47] Sarahanne Field: Nothing to add from here. I'm just excited to hear how the conversation's gonna unfold and would love to hear some of your perspectives on the issues we've already touched on.
[00:14:57] Chris Hartgerink: We'll talk to you next time.
The next episode of the Open Update will be released on February 28th, 9AM UTC+1.