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Are you an Open Researcher? Do you support or promote Open Research? Did the conference convert you? If you’ve got an Open Research story to tell and would like to write a post for our blog, please drop me a line. We would love to hear your stories.
On 30th March we hosted the conference Open in Practice: Inspirations, Strategies and Methods for Open Research here at the University of Reading. Our aim was to stimulate conversation about Open Research, to showcase the benefits of an Open Research approach, and to enthuse researchers to adopt open methods in their own research practice.
The conference featured a number of guest speakers, including academics, publishers and data specialists, who came to talk about their experience of Open Research and what it means in practice. The audience included a broad representation of University researchers and research students, members of the University’s research support services, and academics from beyond Reading. Altogether 90 people, over two-thirds of them research-active, attended the conference, and took part in a day of stimulating discussions.
Slides from speakers’ presentations and a record of the concluding panel discussion can be found here, and you can relive all the drama of the day at our Storify timeline. In short video clips Marcus Munafo and Simon Tanner summarise the key messages of their plenary talks, and several of our delegates tell us about their Open Resolutions.
Why a conference on Open Research?
This is the first time the University has organised an event of this nature. Why did we do it? For two reasons:
First, because the University’s publications team is based in the Library, while our research data service (for very good reasons) sits in Research Services (our research office), and we had been talking for some time about how we can work together more effectively, and offer more holistic support to our researchers as they produce and disseminate the outputs of their research.
Secondly, we wanted to stimulate a broader discussion in our communities, not just about open access or research data, but about open practice in general, as it applies throughout the lifetime of research, and as it affects the processes of research as well as the communication of its end results. We wanted a conversation to take place not just about publishing open access and open data, but about open methods and materials, and open technologies and standards, and using rapid communications, preprints and other means of collaboration and engagement to bring dialogue and peer review into the heart of the research activity.
From this germ developed our idea for a conference themed around the encompassing concept of Open Research.
Open Research: a definition
Open Research is based on the principle that knowledge produces greatest benefit by being shared as openly as possible as early as possible in the discovery process. It is the idea that the methods, materials and results of research should be made openly and freely available wherever possible, so that they can be consulted and used by others, either to validate original research findings, or to realise additional value, through further research, through innovation, and through translation of created knowledge into other kinds of impact.
Open Research practices include:
- the use of open digital technologies, tools and services to support collaborative research and engagement with stakeholder communities;
- transparent documentation of research methods;
- early communication of results using preprints and other informal publications;
- sharing of data and software code using open licensing and open standards; and
- using open access methods to publish research results.
Central to Open Research is the idea that modern technologies and evolving methods of communication have transformed the possibilities of research practice, shifting the focus from ‘publishing as fast as possible’ to ‘sharing knowledge as early as possible’. Open Research affects how research is performed, how researchers collaborate, how knowledge is shared, and, ultimately, how knowledge is realised as social and economic value. The means by which research is communicated are integral to the quality, integrity, and effectiveness of the research.
- underwrites research quality, and demonstrates integrity in the conduct of research, by providing access to its materials, and enabling the widest possible critical engagement with its methods;
- uses open publication and licensing to make its data, materials and findings accessible to and usable by others;
- engages with academic and non-academic stakeholders in the design and conduct of research and its translation into real-world social and economic benefit.
Don’t mention compliance!
We were determined from the outset that we did NOT want to talk about compliance. This conference was not to be about what you need to do to make your publication REF-eligible, or what your obligations are if you are funded by this or that Research Council. Researchers hear enough about this. We wanted to: 1) inspire researchers, by showcasing excellence in Open Research and talking about all the positive reasons why it is a good thing; 2) present to our audience practical examples they could take away and apply in their own day-to-day work to make their research more open.
We also wanted a conversation that would embrace researchers in the humanities as well as the sciences, and that would guarantee something of interest for everyone. Accordingly the speakers we invited included academics from a variety of disciplines who were known as proponents of Open Research practice, and publishers and data service providers who could talk about methods for disseminating research materials and results.
So how did it work out?
Was it worth it? We believe so. We had a good turnout, with researchers from across the disciplinary spectrum and at all stages of the research career, from PhD students to professors, coming together to exchange ideas and engage in spirited discussion. I hope that our guests were inspired by the possibilities of Open Research, and that at least some of them have implemented changes in the way they work as a result. I would single out two key messages, which I hope will continue to resonate in the minds of those who attended.
Open Research is better research
In his formal Welcome at the start of proceedings, University Research Dean Phil Newton advanced the proposition that Open Research is better research. Better for all the reasons elaborated in the course of the day:
- because Open Research more transparent and trustworthy;
- because open methods contribute to better research design and better quality control;
- because open communication maximises the transfer of knowledge to others for social and economic benefit;
- and because the long term benefit to the individual researcher of being open in their practice (in terms of research integrity, quality, reach and impact) invariably trumps any perceived short term advantage from restricting access to research.
I hope this proposition was axiomatic for every member of our audience, and that it will continue to illumine how they think about, carry out and support research throughout their careers.
Everyone can do something!
In his closing words, Phil challenged everyone present to take away one new thing they had learnt and apply it to make their research more open, or to enable others to be more open in their research practice. In the spirit of practising as he preached, Phil made his own resolutions there and then:
- To use the ideas generated during the conference to inform discussions about University support for open access and research data management through the steering groups for these services that he chairs;
- To investigate the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA);
- To investigate what we as a University can do to enable better research design and statistical reliability in our research results.
(If you want to find out more points 2 and 3, take a look at Marcus Munafo’s talk on Scientific ecosystems and research reproducibility).
A number of delegates at the conference told us about their Open Resolutions too:
The take-home message is that everyone can do something to make research more open, whether as a researcher you resolve to register your next study protocol, or to share your data, or to make your software code open source, or to publish an open access monograph; or whether as a research support professional you work to facilitate or promote open research practices.
Not least of the positive outcomes for us was that a number of staff from our University’s research support and management services attended, and were able to make sense of specific support functions, such as open access and research data services, in the context of the broader Open Research philosophy. This has in turn provoked some discussion of the questions: Are there practical ways in which the University can do more to enable and encourage Open Research practice on the part of our researchers and research students? And by taking practical steps in this direction, can we increase the quality, productivity, and competitive strength of our research?
Would we do it again?
We had excellent positive feedback from our conference guests. I am delighted that through this conference we have stimulated such interest and variety of discussion among our researchers, among those who manage and support research at the University, and also on the part of those from outside the University who joined in the conversation on the day. I hope the conference will have a threefold legacy:
- Researchers will be encouraged to change how they work and to try new things to make their work more open;
- The University of Reading will develop its services to better support and promote the adoption of Open Research practices on the part of its researchers;
- We and our researchers will continue to participate in the ongoing conversations about Open Research and Open Science, and in some measure contribute to the evolution of an Open Research culture, not just here in the UK, but across the world, to the greater benefit of researchers, research organisations and the beneficiaries of research.
We have been sufficiently encouraged by the reaction to the conference to consider making Open In Practice an annual event. It’s too early to say whether that will happen yet, but I hope it will, and by this means we can continue to join in the Open Research conversation.
Modern day research practice is incredibly collaborative, increasingly interdisciplinary and a very social process. Sierra Williams underlines the importance of researchers and publishers alike recognising publication as one aspect of a much wider social process. By way of introduction to her role at peer-reviewed open access publisher PeerJ, she reflects on the purpose of community in science communication.
Where do publishers fit in science today and how are they supporting scholarly communities to ensure they thrive? The fact that these questions are asked so regularly these days – often in tandem – suggests a few things: One, the research landscape in the digital age is (still) somewhat unsettled. And second, the direction and trajectory of science today is embracing more of a community ethos. We don’t really have to look far to recognise the growing reach of these community efforts in action: March for Science events being planned around the world, ongoing citizen science projects, reproducibility initiatives, and open access publishing come to mind as shining examples.
I’ve recently started working for PeerJ as their Community Manager and am interested in the many different axes of support scholarly communities require today. As I work towards engaging different communities to consider open research practices in general and PeerJ specifically as a quality open publishing option, understanding the intersections of different community efforts and where further attention should be placed will be instrumental.
Last week I had the chance to hear more from researchers about their own community efforts at the University of Reading’s Open in Practice event. The event was organised to encourage wider discussion and awareness of open research practices amongst researchers and brought together perspectives on openness from the sciences and humanities. My talk looked at Openness Across the Research Lifecycle and whilst it was more focused on open access options for traditional journal articles, I also looked to situate some other open research practices like open peer review, preprint sharing, data sharing and blogging.
Given PeerJ’s strong position as a quality peer-reviewed open access publisher for biology, medicine, and computer sciences, increasing transparency in the publishing process through PeerJ Preprints, a rigorous data sharing policy, and optional open peer review, this was all pretty straightforward. Discussion afterward included some interesting insights and perspectives from researchers on how to encourage wider uptake of open peer review, recognising and rewarding the contributions of both peer reviewers and data sharers, and emerging vulnerabilities and opportunities of openness for researchers working in politically volatile areas (ie climate change).
Fundamentally, the point of my presentation was to look at what a more engaged and open scholarly community means for science today. A thriving science community has meant more attention from researchers, university leaders, funders and librarians on getting the most out the research process itself. With the stretched nature of research budgets, a spotlight has rightly been placed on what publishers offer and what they add to the scientific enterprise as a whole. This scrutiny has been instrumental for wider innovation and also has resulted in new models and new experimentation forcing movement in the otherwise glacial pace of change in academic publishing.
Publishing is obviously a very important aspect of research communication, but often its value is hidden behind academic incentive structures, editorial models and funders’ policies. At the end of the day, scientists have to feed their families and publishing papers is intricately bound to this – the ‘publish-or-perish’ culture remains pervasive. But publication, or the act of making research public, is valuable to the scholarly community not just because of the doors it opens to individual researchers, but because it explicitly recognises and re-affirms that science is a social process. From researcher collaboration to preprint feedback, from peer review to readership numbers – the scientific article is all about facilitating social interaction across the scholarly community and beyond.
Modern day research practice is incredibly collaborative, increasingly interdisciplinary and a very social process. Part of why openness is so valuable and perhaps also so complicated is because of this social element. Martin Eve has touched on these complications in his post on credit and hidden labour in scholarly communication. Publication is one important aspect of the social process of science, but research extends beyond that. The communication and impact of research today involves many different audiences and mechanisms for reaching these audiences. My co-authors and I provide a framework for understanding research communication today which we call the Research Lifecycle framework in our book Communicating Your Research with Social Media.
Research lifecycle diagram from Mollett et al (forthcoming 2017) Communicating Your Research with Social Media: A Practical Guide to Using Blogs, Podcasts, Data Visualisations and Video. SAGE. Copyright in this image belongs to the authors.
What I enjoyed most about the Open in Practice event is that often these conversations on scholarly openness tend to focus on individual players – researchers, funders, librarians, publishers, etc – and their different responsibilities. This event looked to start from a position of shared responsibility to encourage wider open practices for the benefit of the scholarly community. We can discuss issues related to reproducibility in science to the end of time, but unless researchers, higher education administrators, librarians, funders and publishers are recognising a shared community goal, we’re not really going to get very far in improving the scientific enterprise. We’ll just continue to pull in different, if still vaguely aligned, directions.
The University of Reading is an institutional member of PeerJ – visit the University of Reading institutional page for more info. For more on the social nature of research and using social media to communicate your research findings look out for Communicating Your Research with Social Media published later this month.
This post is cross-posted on the PeerJ blog.
We are pleased to present a guest post from Martin Paul Eve, Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing, Birkbeck, University of London, who spoke at the University’s Open In Practice conference on 30th March 2017. Martin is an academic, a publisher, and a prominent advocate of open access publishing. He addressed a session at the conference on Open publishing models for the humanities.
Last week I attended the Open in Practice conference at the University of Reading. The event was lively and broad. It ranged from an opening keynote on the reproducibility crisis in medical research through to panels on digital humanities and the difficulties of open work in an era when cultural works remain under copyright.
In my own session at the event, I delved into some of the economic challenges of open access books. I am known for being a staunch advocate of open access. I believe that it is a social good that everyone could be able to read our works for free. That does not mean, though, that I believe the solutions are straightforward.
The reasoning behind this is quite simple. There is a temptation, when thinking in the technological realm, to see the problems about open access as technical: if only we could preserve software better; if only we could build the infrastructure to make data available; if only we could create X system, our problems would be solved.
However, the problem is that, in fact, the challenges with OA are not technical. They are social and they are about labour and its remuneration. These problems are both harder to fix and more important. Understanding the complex motives behind academic behaviour and tweaking social contexts requires sensitivity to avoid unintended consequences. Furthermore, appreciating various labour functions and their remuneration is important.
Yet I do sometimes wonder if we have double standards. Last week, Bruce Holsinger caused somewhat of a stir on Twitter when he began posting instances of male authors thanking their wives for typing. The outrage was caused by the way in which this gendered, hidden labour was at once being acknowledged but only in an understated mode that does not confer real credit.
A good example of the continuation, though, of this gendered hidden labour can be seen in copyediting. In each of my books (n=4), I have had a female copyeditor. Academics clearly value this labour in some ways; I was roundly shouted at when I suggested the submission of monographs to the REF in the state prior to any copyediting process. Academics told me that they value editorial and copy-editorial input for their works. Yet how is this any different to “thanks for typing”? If the input is so key, why are the names of the editors and copyeditors not on the front of the book? If we value this labour, is it enough to confine it to a “thanks for typing” acknowledgement? Also, when we’re assessing work in processes like REF, is the assessment of the author or of the author plus the copyeditor?
The broader point for a move to open access and data is that thinking about systems of credit (usually circling around hiring, promotion, and tenure committees) cannot be divorced from the economics of the system. The way that we credit people has implications for how we imagine their function and remuneration in any future system of scholarly communications. Authorship is clearly a poor proxy for this credit; when we have hundreds of authors on a single paper we know that they did not actually all co-author the work. We know that “authorship” is standing as a proxy to credit many different labour systems that were necessary for the work. But in the humanities, we don’t have this tradition.
If we are to accurately appraise the labours that we claim to value and want to continue in any open-access environment, then we need to give credit where it is due. We need not do this through authorship; we could use something like the CRediT taxonomy. For when we recognise that OA problems are often problems about labour and its distribution, we will also see that we cannot accurately appraise costs until we have evaluated all the labour that will be needed. Although the digital space allows us to imagine infinite abundance, it is underpinned by work. We should credit this labour so that we can ascertain how much it really costs to publish academic work.
Martin Paul Eve
Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing, Birkbeck, University of London
A free, full-day Bibliometrics Workshop will be held at Reading University Whiteknights Campus on Thursday 6 April.
The workshop is aimed at researchers, managers, librarians and anyone who has developed an interest in research evaluation.
This workshop has been organised by Jisc Web of Science Service for UK Education Support and the training will be provided by Clarivate Analytics (formerly the IP & Science business of Thomson Reuters).
During the session Clarivate Analytics will demonstrate how Bibliometric analysis is being used by the academic research community at strategic levels.
- Part I: The History behind Bibliometrics
- What are the advantages and disadvantages?
- Meaningful use of indicators?
- What are the main challenges related to metrics?
- How can indicators be used for Research evaluation, in Science Mapping and improving University rankings?
- PART II: Responsible metrics
- What data is used and how important is the data for performing bibliometrics?
- Responsible use of bibliometrics, including skewed nature of bibliometrics, JIF@the journal level, fractional counting, relative measure, etc.
- Compare like with like and supporting the Leiden Manifesto
Lunch (provided by Clarivate Analytics)
- Part III: Live demo & Exercises using InCites B&A
- Part III: Product development feedback
Please make sure that you include the following details: full name, institution, email address and telephone number.
The University of Reading contact is Karen Rowlett, email@example.com.
Ever wondered how the Reading University CentAUR repository is used by people looking for research articles?
This infographic gives you a summary of the activity around our repository in 2016.