Open Research Forum 15th September 2021

Thank you again to all those who attended our second Open Research Forum meeting on Wednesday 15th of September. If you missed it on the day a recording of the meeting is available to view via this link (University of Reading members only).

We enjoyed two great presentations, with our first visit from an external speaker, each followed by a lively discussion of all things Open Research. There were also updates on the activities of our busy Open Research Champions. The next Open Research Forum is set for early December (date tbd)

Organising ourselves for world domination: how junior academics can work together to improve research culture

Jessica Butler, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Health Data Science and Lead for UK Reproducibility Network, University of Aberdeen

You can find the slides here

Jess discussed how junior academics can work to reshape our current research culture. For the last 10 years we have been hearing about the reproducibility crisis and Jess set out to contextualise this within the broader research landscape. She argues that improving research quality is uncontroversial and that we know how to do it. If you read A manifesto for reproducible science, published in 2017, you will see a broad range of recommendations in favour of innovation in methods, improvements to reporting and Open Science practices.

Jessica Butler: “We can’t do better science if doing better science is dangerous to our careers”.

Jess argued that the issue is with institutional barriers which remain in place, slowing the adoption of better practices and drew our attention to a number of resources. UKRI’s Research Integrity: A Landscape study summarised the top 5 factors having a negative impact on Research Quality, and of these 4/5 are institutional factors.

UKRI (2020) p. 7

In addition Jess suggested that there is an opposition between the ideal of best practice, and the reality of how job applications are evaluated: on the basis of 3/4* REF publications and grant money won. You can see this in a recent study of criteria used to evaluate promotion and advancement at biomedical schools, where Open Research criteria remain almost entirely absent from consideration. (Rice et. al 2020)

It’s widely acknowledged there are issues with research culture. Wellcome’s What researchers think about the culture they work in found that 55% of researchers reported a negative sentiment towards research culture vs. 33% positive. 54% indicated they felt pressed to meet KPIs or metrics, i.e. for REF or grant funding.

So, how can these issues be addressed? Jess encouraged us to keep up to date with the latest developments, and ask questions. First get a sense of how your University functions politically and economically, find out which committees make the decisions. Find out if they have signed declarations such as DORA or The Concordat (or if there are institutional policies, such as Reading’s Open Research Action Plan) and what these endorse.

Her message is to pass solutions upwards. Does the boss of your lab know about your institution’s policies on Open Research? Senior management are generally sympathetic, but have a big ship to run . Suggest small concrete actions – “other institutions are doing this, why don’t we follow their lead?” For example UKRI have recently  adopted the use of narrative CVs. Ask if your institution provides training for writing one.

Finally, remember you’re not alone. There is a thriving community on Twitter at #researchculture and #ReimageineResearch and you can follow Jess @JessButler284. See if there is a Reproducibilitea group at your University, look out for RIOT science club events. You can help other people find you by having your own visible online presence and making use of your own University web page

The UNESCO Open Science Recommendation, Open Research and ethics

Marzia Briel, PhD student, School of Law

You can find the slides here.

Marzia is one of our Open Research Champions, and presented on the UNESCO Open Science Recommendation, adopted in May 2021. This was arrived at after consultation with global stakeholders including CERN, Coalition S and OpenAIRE, and debated online between over 100 member states. The recommendation is a non-binding legal instrument formulating principles and norms for international regulation, in this case of Open Science. Marzia highlighted 8 key points

  • Open Data and Open Licenses. Not just open publications
  • Inclusive of natural sciences, social sciences and humanities. Principles of Open Knowledge apply to all disciplines
  • Equal opportunity and indigenous knowledge protection. Open Science infrastructures should have long term sustainable visions, guaranteeing participation in research from less privileged institutions and countries. Indigenous rights over traditional knowledge should not be infringed
  • Use of Open Science to solve complex problems across disciplinary boundaries.
  • Prevent the extraction of profit from publicly funded science. The recommendation supports not for profit community driven publishing models.
  • Academic freedom and the continuing right to protect intellectual property
  • Transparency and public accountability of science as a form of evidence based knowledge.
  • Monitoring Oversight of Open Science must be kept public and not delegated to the private sector.

Marzia continued by referencing the broader relevance of Open Science practices, as seen in the case of the AstraZeneca vaccine, reported as being 97% funded by taxpayers or charitable trusts. Moves have been made to make the vaccine available under an open license, although these have been hindered by questions around quality control and the need for consensus between a large number of stakeholders.

The Recommendation also gives consideration for the potential negative consequences of Open Science practices such as predatory behaviour from publishers. It’s this area which Marzia is focusing on in her own research, mapping the impact and probability of these consequences.

Finally Marzia highlighted the 2013 McKinsey Open Data report which estimated Open Data could unlock $3.2 – 5.4 trillion per year in areas such as education. You can see the effects of this in the $7.5 billion acquisition of  GitHub by Microsoft in 2018. She described Research Data as the next frontier after personal data for Big Tech, and warns we must be aware of the possible cultural, legal and ethical consequences. The UNESCO Recommendation is playing an important role in the rapidly developing Open Research landscape, and sends a clear message about how this development should be approached.

Research Champions Business

Tahlia-Rose Virdee: Gathering Testimonials on Open Access Publishing

Tahlia and the other Champions in the School of Law have been talking to members of their Department and gathering testimonials from those who have published Open Access, to be published on the Open Research Champions website. In the spring term this will be expanded into a video panel, advising on Open Research in the humanities and social sciences. There are also plans with for a mini conference on Open Research and Open Access publishing.

Marcello De Maria and Auvikki de Boon: Open Research Survey

Ethical approval has now been granted for our planned University-wide survey on Open Research. The details of the survey are now being finalised. The survey is planned to run during October and we are hoping for responses from both staff and students.

Al Edwards: Open Hardware Hackathon

Unfortunately the planned hackathon in September had to be postponed, and a new date is going to be set around the New Year. There are still lots of Open Hardware activities being organised, so if you are interested please contact Al.

Karen Rowlett: Open Access Week

Open Access Week is coming up in the last week of October. The Library’s Research Engagement Team is planning a number of events including an Open Access publishing drop in for staff and students. Any help publicising these events in your School or department would be much appreciated, and if you would like to participate in Open Access week please get in touch.


Azoulay A. (2021). Draft text of the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science. UNESCO

Manyika, J., Chui, M., Groves, P., Farrell, D., Van Kuiken, S., Almasi Doshi, E. (2013). Open data: Unlocking innovation and performance with liquid information. McKinsey

Metcalfe, J., Wheat, K., Munafò, M. & Parry, J. (2020). Research integrity a landscape study. Vitae, UKRN & UKRIO

Munafò, M. R., Nosek, B. A., Bishop, D. V., Button, K. S., Chambers, C. D., Du Sert, N. P., … & Ioannidis, J. P. (2017). A manifesto for reproducible science. Nature human behaviour1(1), 1-9.

Rice, D. B., Raffoul, H., Ioannidis, J. P., & Moher, D. (2020). Academic criteria for promotion and tenure in biomedical sciences faculties: cross sectional analysis of international sample of universities. Bmj369.

Safi, M. (2021). Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine research ‘was 97% publicly funded’. The Guardian

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