Introducing the Library’s Research Engagement Team at the University of Reading Library

Who are the Research Engagement Team?



The Research Engagement Team can be found on the second floor of the Library at the interface between students, academics and the wider research community. We provide up-to-date, publicly visible and highly accessed repositories for showcasing the University’s research outputs (both publications and research data). We promote the University’s Open Access, data preservation, sharing requirements, and we provide research publications advice, bibliometrics services and data support services to University staff and students. We identify new agendas in Open Research to develop policies to benefit the University’s research outputs profile, and make major contributions to the Library’s provision of routes to Open Access for research publications.

As our team has recently been renamed and expanded to include the University’s research data service, we thought this would be a great opportunity to take some team photos and introduce ourselves! To find out more about what we do, please visit our Libguides.

Alison Sutton (Research Engagement Manager)

I’m the Library’s Research Engagement Manager and I’m proud to be working with a group of specialists to support our research staff and students with Open Research practices, including research publications, Open Access, research data and bibliometrics. I have worked at the University since the late 1990s, at first as the Librarian in the Department of Meteorology where I led a project to develop a pilot institutional repository, and then in the Planning and Strategy Office where I set up the University’s institutional repository, CentAUR. Before joining the University I had posts in university libraries in the West Midlands.

My work is very varied and a typical day might include meeting a new research division leader, delivering a training session on Open Access to the Graduate School or to staff through UoRLearn, a one-to-one meeting with one of my team, and a development project on CentAUR. I have a professional background in librarianship and am passionate about the development of professional services staff in the expanding world of research support and scholarly communication and the synergy created by our different professional and research backgrounds.

Beyond the University I am a member of the UKCORR (United Kingdom Council of Research Repositories) Committee and represent UKCORR in SC3 (Scholarly Communication Competencies Coalition). I have also provided feedback on the development of the Jisc Open Access services of IRUS-UK and Publications Router through membership of their community advisory groups.

Karen Rowlett (Research Publications Adviser)

I’ve been in my role of Research Publications Adviser for over three years and have really enjoyed working with students and staff in that time. I have a background in research (I did my PhD part-time at the University of Reading in the late 1980s) and also in scientific journal publishing. I’ve worked for a commercial Open Access publisher and also a Learned Society publisher, so I am familiar with the perils of peer review and the publication process in general. This experience helps me to understand the needs of staff and students when it comes to publishing and tracking the impact of their research outputs. I use bibliometric tools such as Scopus and SciVal, Web of Science and Altmetric to find out more about the impact and reach of the University of Reading research outputs and to help researchers find new collaborators. I am an advocate for the responsible use of metrics and had a significant input into the University’s Responsible Use of Metrics statement. I’m also providing regular statistics on the usage of CentAUR to demonstrate the value of Open Access in the dissemination of research from the University.

I help to manage applications for the funding of Open Access publications by University of Reading researchers. I hold regular sessions with individual researchers to help with setting up and checking ORCID identifiers, Scopus Author Profiles and Google Scholar profiles.

I was recently elected to the Council of the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) and am looking forward to contributing to the development of this important initiative. I have also served on the JISC Lis-bibliometrics committee in the past.

When I’m not buried in spreadsheets or bibliometric reports, you might find me taking photos of insects and nature in the Harris Gardens, whizzing across campus on my bike or making crocheted centaurs as mascots for CentAUR.

Robert Darby (Research Data Manager)

I joined the Library in August, but I have been working in the University as Research Data Manager since 2014, being previously based in Research Services. I provide a research data management (RDM) service to researchers and research students. I support the preparation of data management plans in applications for funding, advise on the use of services for data storage, computation, and archiving, and provide RDM training. I run the University’s data repository, the Research Data Archive, which can be used to preserve and provide access to data supporting research outputs.

I have also been involved alongside my Research Engagement colleagues in ongoing efforts to foster a culture of Open Research in the University. The various outputs of this initiative include a University Statement on Open Research, the Open in Practice conferences, the University’s inaugural Open Research Award, and the recent publication of several Open Research case studies and an Open Research Handbook. Beyond the University I engage with an international network of RDM and Open Research professionals, and have attended events organised by the Digital Curation Centre, the Jisc Research Data Network, and the FORCE11 Open Research community.

I have a D. Phil. in Modern Languages, and have previously worked in Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries and the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory Library. At STFC, among other things, I was involved in an EC-funded project concerned with increasing the sharing and re-use of research data. This led me to my role in RDM support here at the University in 2014. I was initially employed to establish a new RDM service, and have been working since to promote awareness among researchers and students of the importance and benefits of data management, and to propagate good practice. I am delighted to join the Research Engagement team. This will enable me to further develop RDM services and, with my new colleagues, to cultivate a supportive environment for Open Research.

Claire Collins (Senior Library Assistant – Research Publications)

I joined the team in October 2015 and work part-time whilst completing my part-time PhD in Medieval Studies here at Reading, meaning half my week is spent working for the Research Engagement Team and the other half is spent absorbed in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century sources! Currently, I am looking at late medieval herbals and lapidaries to research the plants and stones people used to treat various aspects of pregnancy and childbirth in England.

Along with Natasha and Emily, my main responsibilities are to help with the day-to-day support of CentAUR, making sure we have all the information we need from authors and publishers, keeping CentAUR records up-to-date, and answering queries. But our job is varied from day to day, and my role has changed over the four years I’ve been here, especially with the implementation of the REF2021 Open Access policy in April 2016 and the implications that has had for academics and for CentAUR. I spend most of my time in the Research Engagement office, but you may also see me on the Welcome Desk on the ground floor of the library, where I work once a week.

Emily Carroll (Senior Library Assistant – Research Publications)

I’m the most recent member of the Research Engagement Team. I joined in February 2019 following the completion of my PhD in archaeology. My day-to-day work, along with Claire and Natasha, consists of reviewing new items added to the institutional repository CentAUR, checking all the data that has been provided, and contacting authors when we do need additional information. I am also involved in several projects within the team including theses processing, style checking, and generating Altmetric reports.

Before starting here, I had never worked in a library before. It is certainly warmer and more comfortable than digging holes in a muddy field (there’s more cake too)! However, there are some parallels that I have found really helpful while being a member of the Research Engagement Team, such as problem solving, using my initiative and multi-tasking. I find so many parts of this job rewarding, but I think I especially enjoy developing new working relationships with academic staff. Since starting here I really appreciate how important Open Research is to global development, which is something that I never properly considered even as a PhD student.

Outside of work, I spend most of my time trying to rid my life of plastic, covering my lounge in growing vegetables ready for my allotment and knitting!

Natasha Feiner (Senior Library Assistant – Research Publications)

I joined the University of Reading Library’s Research Engagement Team in August 2018 after completing a PhD in Medical History and working in various academic research and teaching capacities at the Universities of Exeter and Bristol. Working alongside Claire and Emily I monitor and maintain the University’s institutional repository, CentAUR: I check newly deposited content and update existing records, and provide support to University of Reading researchers via the CentAUR Helpdesk.

It is a University requirement for all doctoral theses to be archived electronically in the institutional repository. This means that the full text will be available via CentAUR and the British Library’s thesis repository, EThOS. I took primary responsibility for this in January 2019 and have since seen the addition of over 300 new theses to CentAUR. I am currently working closely with colleagues in the Library and the Graduate School to improve the way electronic theses are deposited and archived in CentAUR, and I look forward to seeing how things develop!

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Open Research case studies and Open Research Handbook – out now!

We are delighted to announce the publication of six Open Research case studies from researchers at the University of Reading, and the launch of our new Open Research Handbook.

Open Research case studies

The case studies, from University researchers and research students in the environmental sciences, psychology, and philosophy, discuss a variety of Open Research practices, including Open Access publishing, sharing of data and code, Open Source software distribution, conducting a replication study, using a public platform to pre-register a study design, and running a successful citizen science project.

Our authors explain how and why they used open practices in their research, the benefits realised as a result, and the challenges they encountered on the way. The majority of these case studies originated from entries in the Open Research Award competition which we held earlier this year, and include the winning entry, a description of a replication study in experimental philosophy conducted by Kathryn Francis, Nat Hansen and Philip Beaman.

We have published these case studies to show you how researchers at this University are using the tools of Open Research to improve the quality of their work, to make their results more reproducible, and to communicate their findings more accessibly and efficiently. These researchers have embraced the possibilities of Open Research not only because they believe it is right to do so, but because being open works for them – it makes their research more effective. We hope you will be inspired by the example of your colleagues and students harnessing the power of Open Research.

The following case studies have been released:

  • Emily Black and Ross Maidment (Meteorology): TAMSAT-ALERT open drought monitoring tool
  • Jon Blower (Institute for Environmental Analytics): Open Source software for environmental data visualisation
  • Rebecca Emerton (Meteorology): open global flood forecasting tool
  • Kathryn Francis, Nat Hansen and Philip Beaman (Psychology and Philosophy): pre-registration and a replication study for reproducible science
  • Shannon Jones and Chris Scott (Meteorology): using citizen science to watch solar storms
  • Inge Lasser (Centre for Integrative Neuroscience & Neurodynamics): fostering an Open Science culture in the CINN laboratories

We are looking for more case studies to publish, in any subject, from research-active staff and PhD students. If you have an Open Research case study to share, we would love to hear from you. Find out more on the case studies page of the Open Research Handbook.

Open Research Handbook

We understand that Open Research can seem overwhelming. It can be difficult to know where to start, what to do, what is the best tool for job, and who to go to for help. Which is why we have developed the University’s Open Research Handbook. The Handbook provides a practical guide to Open Research, explaining in detail how to use key open practices effectively, and pointing you to key tools and resources.

The Handbook includes sections on open licences, Open Access, open research data, open research software and code, preprints, open peer review, reproducibility, open collaboration and citizen science, creating an Open Research culture, and information about help and training. You can also find out how to submit an Open Research case study to us for publication.

Join the Open Research conversation!

The University is working hard to put into practice its commitment to the aims and principles of Open Research. The members of the Library’s Research Engagement team are passionate about making research at the University more open, more transparent and more reproducible, and we want to work with our academics and students in pursuit of these ends.

We wish to extend and deepen the Open Research conversation with our research community. Here are some things you can do now:

  • We want more case studies! If you or a colleague or a student have an Open Research story to tell, we would love to hear about it. Published case studies will be featured in Open Research communications activities. Visit the case studies page of the Open Research Handbook to find out more.
  • Organise a workshop. If you and your colleagues/students would like to explore aspects of open practice in more depth, or learn how to use particular tools for your research, let us know and we will be happy to organise something with you.
  • Talk to us. We have developed these resources for you. Are they useful to you? Is there something missing you would like to see? Tell us what you think. We’re always happy to talk Open Research with you.
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CentAUR statistics for August 2019

An infographic showing key statistics from the CentAUR repository

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CentAUR statistics for July 2019

An infographic showing some key statistics from the CentAUR repository

Key statistics for CentAUR July 2019

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CentAUR statistics for June 2019

Infographic with key statistics for the repository

Selected statistics for June 2019

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CentAUR statistics for May 2019

Inforgraphic with key statistics for the repository

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CentAUR statistics for April 2019

Infographic with statistics for the CentAUR repository

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The Open Research Award 2019

This year’s Open in Practice conference saw the finale of the University’s inaugural Open Research Award, with Dr Kathryn Francis (Philosophy) taking the prize by public vote against an impressive field of shortlisted candidates.

The Open Research Award is a new departure for the University in 2019, and part of our effort to promote a culture of Open Research. We want to celebrate and reward researchers and research students who have used open practices to make their research more accessible, transparent or reproducible. In addition to offering a cash prize to the winning entry, we will publish all of the shortlisted entries on our Open Research web pages.

Competition entrants were asked to submit a short case study explaining how they have used open practices in a research context. From an impressive 17 entries, a panel of judges chaired by Professor Parveen Yaqoob (PVC Research and Innovation)* selected four who were invited to present their case studies at Open in Practice. Each entrant was given 10 minutes to present their case study, and the winner was chosen at the end of the session by audience vote.

Four presentations were given:

  • Dr Ross Maidment (Meteorology) on developing the TAMSAT-ALERT African drought forecasting tool;
  • Dr Kathryn Francis (Philosophy) on conducting an experimental replication study;
  • Professor Chris Scott on running a solar storm citizen science project; and
  • Dr Joseph O’Mahoney (Politics & International Relations) on using a publication overlay tool to provide access to digital representations of unpublished archive sources.

Descriptions of the case studies and links to slides are provided below.

All the case studies were rich and distinctive examples of open practice, demonstrating inventiveness in research method and a considered commitment to the aims of Open Research. But only one winner could be selected: Kathryn Francis and team won the popular vote and claimed the £500 cash prize, which was presented by Professor Yaqoob.

Professor Yaqoob commented:

The outstanding quality of entries that we received for this award demonstrate a significant evolution towards greater openness in research at Reading. The shortlisted candidates used a range of examples to illustrate the benefits of open research, but also  provided insightful consideration of the challenges. Kathryn’s case study and presentation was particularly inspiring in this regard and thoroughly deserving of the award.

We would like to commend everyone who entered the Open Research Award competition for their enthusiasm and effort. The standard of entries was high and it was not easy to narrow them down to a shortlist. All of the entries we were unable to shortlist are mentioned below.

*The Open Research Award panel was chaired by Parveen Yaqoob, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research & Innovation), and included: Adrian Bell, Research Dean for Prosperity & Resilience; Robert Darby, Research Data Manager; Francesca Greco, Research Division Lead, Pharmacy; and Phil Newton, Research Dean for Environment.

Winner and shortlist

Kathryn Francis, Nat Hansen and Philip Beaman, Open and online experimental philosophy (winner)

The authors conducted a pre-registered replication study which found significant differences from the results reported by the authors of the original study. Their findings were reported at a recent philosophy and psychology conference dedicated to Open Research and are due to be published as an Open Access article. The study also led the authors to identify vulnerabilities in online survey applications that might lead to fraudulent responses, as a result of which they wrote code (due to be published) to track IP addresses and flag suspicious responses. This led to the further finding that ‘anonymous’ responses could be quite easily identified using the IP-tracking software.

Emily Black and Ross Maidment, TAMSAT-ALERT (The TAMSAT – AgricuLtural Early waRning sysTem)

The TAMSAT-ALERT tool uses open environmental data to provide weather-hazard information for African stakeholders in the agricultural, financial and policy-making sectors. The tool is implemented using code published on GitHub, is driven by open data, and is made accessible via an open online interface. TAMSAT-ALERT enables thousands farmers across Africa to plan more effectively in anticipation of weather extremes, and has provided increased forecasting benefits to regulators and the insurance industry. The authors have found that building tools using open data and methods increases transparency and trust on the part of users.

Shannon Jones, Chris Scott and Luke Barnard, Researching solar storms with citizen scientists; engaging with four thousand volunteer research assistants

Citizen science projects run on the Zooniverse platform recruited over 4,000 citizen research assistants to analyse thousands of images of solar storms. Engagement of citizen scientists has led to identification of new phenomena in the images studied, and refinement of the image analysis methods. In one instance a high school student from the USA was inspired to write the first automated algorithm to trace storm fronts in heliospheric imager data. All publications have been made Open Access, with citizen scientists receiving credit and in cases of substantial contribution becoming co-authors. Code and data from the project have been published online.

Joseph O’Mahoney, Annotating for transparent inquiry in qualitative foreign policy decision-making research: making archival documents accessible

In a recent article the author used technology that provides an annotation overlay to publications, enabling access to digital images of primary source documents held in archives alongside additional source information and analysis. Citation of archive sources and privately-held materials in historical research is traditionally problematic: because the source material cannot easily be looked up or accessed by most readers, the citation and its interpretation cannot be verified, and its amenability to re-use may be limited. The Annotation for Transparent Inquiry initiative run by the Center for Qualitative and Multi-Method Inquiry at Syracuse University, USA provides an annotation overlay to the article itself as well as a link to a secure repository where photographic images of the archive sources can be consulted.

A special mention to everyone who entered for the Award

We would like to thank all the entrants to the competition we were unable to shortlist.

  • Amy Butt, ‘Only one way in and one way out’: staging utopian spaces
  • Anastasia Christakou and team, Promotion and facilitation of open science practices at CINN Imaging, the University’s neuroimaging laboratories
  • Philippa Cranwell and Laurence Harwood, Using “crowd review” to expedite peer-review for Thieme-Verlag’s new open access journal SynOpen, ensuring rapid but rigorous assessment.
  • Karen Dempsey, HeRSTORY: Open Research in practice
  • Albert Elduque Busquets, Open access videographic criticism
  • Rebecca Emerton and team, Developing seasonal forecasts of hydrological extremes at the global scale
  • Ali Maghrabi and team, Protein structure and function prediction servers at the University of Reading
  • Syed Manzoor and team, An open and reproducible decision support model for policy-based landscape management
  • Phiala Mehring, Using social media to disseminate ‘user friendly’ research and to generate debate
  • Filippo Menga, The ‘Water Relations in Central Asia Dataset’ (WRCAD): an online tool for researchers, practitioners and students
  • Catriona Scrivener and Etienne Roesch, Pre-registration as a remedy for post-hoc changes to analysis: a case study on open science practices in Neuroscience
  • James Tomkins and team, PINOT: maximising the utility of existing protein-protein interaction data
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Open Research at Reading 2017-2019: what have we achieved?

In March 2017 we held our first Open in Practice conference. It was our first opportunity to consider as a research community how we can support and enable better access to research outputs, more transparent and collaborative research processes, and greater reproducibility of results. Our second Open in Practice Conference (held in April 2019) gave us an opportunity to reflect on how far we have travelled.

What have we achieved since then? (poster version)

University Statement on the Responsible Use of Metrics

  • Responsible Metrics Statement published in 2018.
  • Aims to ensure that metric-based assessment of researchers for performance evaluation, recruitment and promotion is fair and balanced and not driven by crude indicators such as Journal Impact Factor (IF).

University Statement on Open Research

  • Leading the way as one of the first universities in the world to publish a Statement on Open Research.
  • Sets out commitment to the aims and principles of Open Research.
  • Commits to a more open culture of research by encouraging the research community to explore the possibilities and benefits of open practices.
  • Provides practical guidance.

Open Research Working Group

  • Established in 2018 to co-ordinate communication and engagement activities and ensure these are informed by input from the research community.
  • Representation from the Library, Research Services and the research community.
  • Organised Open in Practice 2019 conference and the Open Research Award.

Post-Graduate Researchers’ Data Management Plan Pilot

  • Pilot requires PhD students that collect or create primary data to submit a data management plan as part of their annual review.
  • Launched with first-year students in the NERC SCENARIO, ESRC SeNSS and AHRC SWW doctoral training centres; plans to roll out further.
  • Aims to instill best practice in data sharing in our trainee researchers.

Programming for reproducibility

  • Research programming is often integral to reproducibility.
  • A 2017 survey showed the use of research programming is widespread; researchers often lack training and support.
  • Research Software Group established (2018) to co-ordinate capability development activities.
  • Developing training and support for researchers and research students.
  • Weekly PCLS Coding Club (2018) is open to staff and students. Meeting a vital need to share skills and good practice.

Open Access monographs fund

  • Established funding to publish Open Access monographs (2017). Two have now been published; five are pending.

Open Research Award

  • Photo of open research prize 2019

    The winning entry for our Open Research Prize was Open and Online Experimental Philosophy by Kathryn Francis (shown), Nat Hansen and Philip Beaman.

    Recognising and rewarding open research practices.

  • Competition launched in 2019, open to members of staff and PhD students.
  • 17 entries received; shortlisted four to compete for the £500 prize, winner was decided by audience vote at Open in Practice.
  • Shortlisted entries to be published as Open Research case studies.


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CentAUR statistics for March 2019

An infographic showing some key statistics on usage of the CentAUR repository for March 2019

Selected statistics from the CentAUR repository

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