Ethox and WEH Seminar - A can of worms: open data, replication and evidence-making in global health

For many, digital technologies and the practices of ‘open science’ that they enable – open data, open source, open access, open notebook – promise more efficient innovation and more inclusive and trustworthy science. More open scientific practices are also proffered as solutions to the ‘reproducibility crisis’, antidotes to myriad questionable research practices that in part fuel the crisis. In this paper, I explore one stumbling block on the route to more open, speedy, reproducible science: interpretive flexibility in data analysis. My entry point is a controversy – dubbed Worm Wars in the media – surrounding the re-analysis of an influential global health study on the impacts of mass deworming. Through analysing the statistical (re)analyses and extensive public discussions about them, I trace some of the competing social, moral and political underpinnings of divergent analytic decisions.

Lisa Hall is an Assistant Professor in the Social & Behavioural Health Sciences Division, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto. A public health physician and epidemiologist by training, her current research centres on scientific knowledge practices and uses of science in policy contexts.