Reproducibility in health intervention research and beyond: addressing the challenges and developing innovative solutions

Lead Research Organisation: CARDIFF UNIVERSITY
Department Name: Sch of Psychology


Research within the social sciences can have a profound positive impact on public health challenges, such as the rise in overweight and obesity in the UK. Addressing the health and socioeconomical costs of these challenges requires a joint effort from academic, industry and government sectors.

In my doctoral work I tested the efficacy of behavioural interventions that can potentially help people make healthier food choices. I found that training individuals to stop their behavioural responses towards energy-dense foods in a computer-based task can reduce their choices, cravings and liking for these foods. I investigated the mechanisms of action behind these training effects (how does it work?) and the parameters that should be considered for designing such interventions (what should training involve?).

In order to establish myself as a leading researcher in food-related health intervention research, I will publish my work in top-ranking journals that can reach a wide range of readers and communicate all findings to a multidisciplinary audience by attending a health psychology conference. I will continue the development of a novel intervention that can promote healthy eating and undertake this research as part of a teaching programme for undergraduate students run in collaboration with other universities. During the fellowship I will also strengthen my skills on advanced statistical analyses for behavioural data in psychology.

The disseminated research findings can be used to generate accessible and cost-efficient technologies (e.g. smart- phone apps) for healthy eating. These mobile health technologies can be developed by UK companies and distributed to the general public through our healthcare system. For this exchange of knowledge and ideas between sectors to be successful, academic research needs to be trusted.

During my PhD I came across the 'open science' movement in the social sciences - a scientific community that was calling for greater transparency, integrity and reproducibility in research through the adoption of open science practices. They advocated making the research data and findings accessible to all to advance scientific knowledge. The more I learned about this movement the more I discovered about my own research field.

Reproducibility and openness are very important for health interventions as our work can reach the healthcare and industry sectors. However, I discovered that food-related research faces a reproducibility challenge with the most notable example being an allegation of academic misconduct which led to a 'world-renowned' scientist retracting many of his papers due to unreliable findings.

The Center for Open Science (COS) is a technological organisation that leads global developments for reproducible science, as for example creating solutions for making research plans, data and materials publicly available. I have used these tools to increase the transparency of my work and ensure that my research on behavioural interventions for eating behaviours can be reproduced by other researchers.

In this fellowship I will work in close consultation with COS to develop an accessible web-based application that can help researchers design robust and reproducible studies. For this industry partnership, I will use my skills and experience in psychological research and open science to create an innovative solution that can be beneficial for researchers and stakeholders (e.g. academic publishers). The work product and implications of this industry partnership will be communicated to multidisciplinary audiences in local and international meetings.

Overall, this fellowship will prepare me for the next stage in my career where I continue my research on health interventions for eating behaviours and expand my network and skills to form fruitful collaborations with UK organisations to promote technological innovations for greater reproducibility in the social sciences.
Description The primary project funded by the ESRC aims to examine the efficacy of a novel intervention for dietary behaviour change. This intervention has been designed as a computer task where individuals are trained to associate specific foods with different types of responses. For example, following the concept of 'food swaps' individuals may be trained to avoid a food item that is high in fat, sugar and/or salt and instead approach a healthier alternative that they may often find less appetitive. It was expected that this training can influence the liking, cravings and impulsive choices for these foods. The ultimate goal for this line of research is to make this training intervention as generalisable as possible, whereby food pairs are tailored to individual preferences and dietary needs. Preliminary data analyses indicated that training participants to stop their responses towards certain foods can lead to reduced impulsive choices towards those items, but that the liking and cravings for these food items and their healthier alternatives did not change in the predicted direction. We are now exploring the potential influence of different methodological parameters and individual differences in the observed training effects to further develop this paradigm for future work.
Exploitation Route The findings of this research project can be replicated and extended by other academic researchers that employ similar training paradigms for food, alcohol and tobacco research. The outcomes of this project may further inform the development of mobile applications for dietary behaviour change.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)


Description In the sixth month of the ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship I had completed important impact-generation meetings with an interdisciplinary team of researchers to develop my impact strategy further. For example, the dissemination of my doctoral work in these interdisciplinary meetings can result in the application of training interventions for healthy eating in the domain of alcohol research. This means that the potential impact of the research findings for public health will be broader. The novel training intervention that I aimed to develop during this fellowship has been designed and I have extended previous work to account for its potential application in mobile health technologies (i.e. smartphone app) which is important for future industry partnerships. Research, development and engagement on Registered Reports and reproducibility is ongoing since the second term of the fellowship and this work is primarily useful for academic researchers and journal editors. Notwithstanding, promoting reproducible research practices through collaborative student projects and international talks is important for the continuous promotion of transparency in psychological research, which can benefit both research users and policy makers.
First Year Of Impact 2021
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Healthcare
Impact Types Societal


Description Session for the Society for the Improvement of Psychological Science (SIPS) Annual Meeting 2022 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact For this SIPS 'unconference' session we invited researchers from all career levels to discuss how we can improve Registered Reports (RRs) for authors, reviewers, and editors. Discussion themes included addressing the key challenges surrounding the adoption and implementation of RRs, expanding the format for more types of research, and increasing their overall accessibility. The insights gained from this discussion will be used to guide improvements to the RR process and quality of RRs being published. More information can be found on our recorded summary (
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021