The Open Science Framework, Part 1: pre-registering a study protocol
Pre-registration of study protocols increases research transparency by providing a time-stamped record of experimental or analysis decisions before studies are conducted. Protocol pre-registration is now mandatory or strongly encouraged for clinical trials, and is increasingly encouraged for basic science and pre-clinical research (e.g. see the Transparency and Openness Promotion Guidelines).
The Open Science Framework (OSF) is an open source software project created by the Centre for Open Science to increase reproducibility in research. The OSF allows users to create project folders, pre-register study protocols, and store data and code files for public access. These features are especially relevant for transparency in laboratory-based and basic science research.
How can we register a study protocol on the OSF?
Navigate to the Open Science Framework website, create an account, and sign in. In the OSF, the research project and registration of the protocol are separated, so users can structure the project (e.g. add protocol, files, other content) and register its components at key points while continuing to edit the project. This is slightly different to a clinical trial or systematic review registry, where creating a project also means registering it. In the OSF, The flexibility of allowing users to register components at different time points may suit the nature of exploratory research better as it evolves.
Signing in to the OSF brings you to the user dashboard, where different projects will be listed. Here, create a new project (Figure 1) and follow the steps to name and describe the project:
To register the project protocol, go to the project for which you want to create a registration. In the “Project Overview” page, click the “Registrations” tab in the gray navigation bar, then click the “New registration” button (Figure 2):
Follow the steps to choose a registration form (i.e. the type of registration that best suits the project), complete the form, and register the protocol. Importantly, the OSF states:
Warning.A registration on OSF creates a frozen, time-stamped version of a project that cannot be edited or deleted. The original project can still be edited, while the registered version cannot. You might create a registration to capture a snapshot of your project at certain points in time – such as right before data collection begins, when you submit a manuscript for peer review, or upon completion of a project.
Registrations can be made public immediately or embargoed for up to 4 years. Registrations cannot be deleted, but they can be withdrawn. Withdrawing a registration removes the content of the registration but leaves behind basic metadata, like registration title, contributors, and a reason for the withdrawal (not required).
The Open Science Framework serves as a registry for experimental study protocols, and we learned how to create a protocol registration.
In the next post, we will learn where data and code files can be stored, and how to add collaborators to the project.
Note: figures are sourced from the OSF Guides.