By Christopher R. Chartier and Randy McCarthy
The community of research psychologists has access to a large amount of resources (e.g., time, participants, expertise, etc.) which, collectively, has the potential to make enormous gains in knowledge, shape public policy, and improve human lives. However, these resources may not be currently used as efficiently as possible. With these goals in mind, we introduce a new tool to facilitate coordinated use of collective research resources: StudySwap.
Briefly, StudySwap is an online platform where researchers can post brief descriptions of resources available for use (“Haves”) or resources they need that another researcher may have (“Needs”). The goal is for the Haves and Needs to be matched up so that (a) fewer research resources go unused and (b) more researchers have access to the resources they need to complete their research (e.g., Schmalz, 2016).
The motivation for StudySwap arose from two observations. First, it is often difficult for individual researchers to obtain the resources needed to achieve their research goals. Second, there recently have been several high-profile, large-scale research projects (e.g., the Many Labs projects, Registered Replication Reports, the Pipeline Project, etc.) that have demonstrated the potential of “crowdsourcing” research resources: Coordinating their individually-modest resources to obtain large sample sizes, precise effect size estimates, and estimates of lab-to-lab variability in effects.
Although these extant “crowdsourcing” projects have been successful at achieving their research goals, many researchers may not see these approaches as a tool at their disposal for their individual research or, if they did want to coordinate a “crowdsourced” research project, they feel they would have to build it from scratch because there is currently not an established mechanism for potential collaborators to find one another. We also do not believe most research projects require the vast amounts of resources on the scale of the aforementioned examples of “crowdsourced” research projects. Rather, we feel that many projects fall into the “Goldilocks” zone of collaboration. The resources that are available to individual researchers (e.g., your local participant pool) is sometimes too little. The resources and effort to coordinate, for example, a project completed at dozens of individual labs may be an unnecessary amount of resources for achieving your research goals. But something in between is oftentimes just right.
Example Uses of StudySwap
Conduct an independent replication of a finding
Increase your confidence in a not-yet-published effect by conducting a replication attempt in an independent laboratory. This could strengthen the evidence in your eventual publication and test the generalization of the effect to a new sample and a different context.
Increase the size of your sample and increase the efficiency of data collection
Many psychology studies are brief. However, many credit-based participant pool systems assign credit in 15, 30, or 60 minute increments. It is possible there is unused time that another researcher could use for their study. StudySwap can help coordinate mutual data collection at two or more sites. This could be one research project or more than one research project that are combined into one data collection procedure that will be run in parallel at several labs.
Recruit hard-to-find participants
Participants other than traditional Introductory Psychology can be challenging to recruit for many researchers. Such samples could include infants, children, business managers, groups of 3 or more participants at a time, or romantic couples. Further, there are some participants of interest that are in these Introductory Psychology subject pools (e.g., vegetarians, bi-sexual students, atheists, etc.), but just at a low prevalence, which makes obtaining sufficiently large samples difficult. Once recruited, researchers should attempt to maximize the efficiency of participation from these samples. Further, some types of research participants are hard to recruit and are a valuable resource once recruited. Researcher A may have children coming to the lab, and would coincidentally have access to parents, but may not have a specific study for the parents to participate in. Researcher B may be interested in collecting data from those parents during the session. Researcher B may in turn have access to participants fitting a certain demographic profile that is not available to Researcher A or Researcher C. These can be incredibly useful, but may be hard to forge as researchers in different areas likely do not know each other or which populations others have access too. StudySwap can be used for researchers to get access to these hard-to-find participants.
Technical equipment and specialized experimental software can be prohibitively expensive to purchase, especially for researchers with little or no grant funding. StudySwap can be used for researchers to find ways to maximize the use of their equipment that may otherwise go unused.
How You Can Get Involved
StudySwap only works if people use it. You can find information about StudySwap on the Open Science Framework (https://osf.io/9aj5g/) and you can receive notices about Haves and Needs by following StudySwap on Twitter (@Study_Swap) and Facebook. StudySwap also is not limited to the few uses we mentioned above. There are lots of intelligent people in the community of research psychologists, so we are excited for the ways in which future researchers find ways to collaboratively make scientific contributions. If you have any questions or ideas about StudySwap, please email Chris Chartier (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Randy McCarthy (email@example.com).
Dr. Christopher R. Chartier is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Ashland University. He is primarily interested in interdependent decision making, but he has recently focused much of his energy on finding ways to make replication attempts more collaborative and less adversarial. He sincerely welcomes your input at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Randy McCarthy is a researcher at Northern Illinois University's Center for the Study of Family Violence and Sexual Assault. His research interests are in family violence and aggression. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @RandyJMcCarthy