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& International Relations) on using a publication overlay tool to provide access to digital representations of unpublished archive sources.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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