Increasing Transparency and Reproducibility in Contextual Behavioral Science Research  

research science-based psychotherapy values Aug 28, 2023

Auditing Open Science Practices in the Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science 

Contextual behavioral science (CBS) is an approach to behavioral health treatment and research grounded in philosophical principles of functional contextualism. CBS encompasses therapies like Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and emphasizes understanding behavior in context. Recently, the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science (ACBS) identified transparency and reproducibility as key aims for advancing high-quality CBS research. Yet little data exists on current open science practices used in published CBS studies. 

To address this gap, a team of researchers from Portland Psychotherapy audited the use of open science and transparency practices in the Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science (JCBS). JCBS is the flagship journal for CBS research. The researchers examined all empirical articles published in JCBS in 2020-2021, before the journal adopted open science recommendations. 

Examining the Use of Open Science Practices 

The audit evaluated whether studies reported use of the following transparency practices: 

  • Prospective registration of studies before data collection 
  • Practices indicating adequate statistical power 
  • Data availability statements 
  • Use of reporting guidelines like PRISMA and CONSORT 
  • Posting preprints of manuscripts 
  • Conflict of interest disclosures 
  • Sharing of data, resources, and analysis code 

These practices aim to reduce bias and increase the credibility of research results. The audit characterized current use of open science methods in JCBS as a baseline before the journal implemented open science policies in late 2021. 

Key Findings: Infrequent Use of Most Practices 

The Portland Psychotherapy researchers found studies in JCBS rarely used most recommended open science practices. Only 6% pre-registered studies, and 6% made data available. Just 17% reported a priori power analyses to plan adequate sample sizes. Practices that JCBS required - like conflict-of-interest disclosures and reporting guidelines - had higher adherence. 

Compared to top clinical psychology journals, experimental studies in JCBS had lower median sample sizes, indicating weaker statistical power. But correlational studies were similar. Based on the audit findings, the authors make several suggestions to promote open science practices in JCBS: 

  • Require statements on whether recommended practices were used.
  • Consider mandating practices beyond current requirements.
  • Provide guidance to authors on open science methods.
  • Welcome innovative formats like Registered Reports.
  • Build infrastructure to support practices like data repositories.


Broader initiatives like multi-site collaboration, consensus on measures, and sharing resources could also strengthen CBS research transparency over time. Overall, the audit indicates significant room for JCBS to encourage openness and reproducibility as core values. Greater use of practices like preregistration and transparent reporting will increase the credibility and prosocial impact of contextual behavioral science. 

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