I've finally joining the preregistration party (here and here), I wanted to take a few minutes to write about my experience. I chose to use the Open Science Framework (OSF) to file my pre-registrations. Most of the various preregistration forms on the OSF are set up to intake information and plans for a project before it is executed, as if you are conducting a registered report. However, I immediately put myself at a disadvantage for the preregistration experience for two reasons: First, both of my projects relied on a new analysis of already collected or existing data. Second, my goal with both of these projects was to preregister the plan for the analysis of data for a particular paper, and not for an entire study.
The (Brightstart Impact Paper) is the culmination of a five-year randomized control trial funded by the Institution of Education Sciences (IES). Yes I said culmination and I said five-year, so the plans for how to collect this data had long been settled by the time I wanted to preregister the analysis plan. However, with IES grants, we are required to include extensive and detailed documentation of the plans not only for the data collection, but also for the sample size, and analysis plans. So we did have a detailed record of the study design and analysis plan, it had just never been published. In that way, completing some of the preregistration paperwork was relatively straightforward.
After reaching out to twitter for suggestions, I landed on the "AsPredicted" version of the preregistration form. The "nine questions" on this form are, to me, rather bizarrely ordered on the OSF and omit some key information. I can see how if I was planning an "in-lab" experiment with undergraduates that this might be a good option, however for trying to complete this about a complex study for which the data had already been collected I ran into several road blocks. I recently published my second registration (Unique contribution of language gains to children’s kindergarten and grade 3 reading skills), and ran into the same issues again so I wanted to document them here.
First, is a very small problem, but there was no place to include authors!?! I had to include our authors in the "other information" section. That seems completely bizarre and fixable. Second, I was surprised that this form asks for no background or motivating information. The methods and analysis plan should be completely dependent on that background, and without it I find it difficult to determine whether the study design or analysis plan is appropriate. Third, there was no dedicated space to list information about predictors and covariates in the model, so I tucked them away in the analysis section. Third, some of the sample ascertainment questions are tough with secondary data - the plan is to use every single data point I can get my hands on, and I have no idea if that will be 800 or 8,000 data points, and I won't know until I get into the data. For those sections, I settled on reporting a power analysis for a minimally meaningful effect size.
In all, I plan to continue pre-registering my planned papers, even with these road blocks. I think a dedicated form for secondary analysis would be very beneficial for the field of education as a whole. A group of researchers at the Center for Open Science has already developed a template, available HERE, and I look forward to using it once it is functional.
A disclaimer to the negative tone of this... review?... I really don't like fitting my ideas into superseding categories, and generally I find filling out forms to be anxiety provoking at best. Manuscript submission portals make me want to crawl under my desk and hide. I'm hoping that with continued practice I will get over that fear for this process. Time will tell.