Open Research Forum 15th December 2021

Thank you to all who attended the Open Research Forum meeting on Wednesday 15th of December. A recording of the meeting is available to view on Stream if you missed it on the day (University of Reading members only).

We heard updates on the fantastic work of our Open Research Champions, including the Open Research Survey which received responses from over 400 staff and students across the University.

Event Announcement: Open Hardware Hackathon

7th January. Book your place here

Join the Open Hardware Hackathon and make a digital microscope! Teams will build a sophisticated microscope using Open Source designs and low-cost parts (all equipment provided). There will be prizes. This is an opportunity to learn about open hardware and get involved with the emerging UoR maker community. All are welcome to join the UoR Open Lab Team. Contact Al Edwards for enquiries.

Preliminary findings of the Open Research Survey

Auvikki De Boon, Marcello De Maria, Kirsty Hodgson, Sophie Read and Brendan Williams

The Open Research Survey has been an initiative carried out by a group of Open Research Champions this Autumn, with a view to gaining a better understanding of the current Open Research landscape at Reading. The survey was designed to give information about current knowledge and use of Open Research practices and to reveal needs for training and development. It received a broad uptake with over 400 staff and students responding with 70% actively involved in research. There was broad coverage with responses received from all Schools in the University except one.

Preliminary analysis of the data has begun drawing out key concepts associated with Open Research. When asked “What does the term ‘Open Research’ mean to you”, research accuracy and transparency were the most commonly mentioned. Responses were also coded for positive and negative statements and notably only 5 negative responses were received. Awareness of Open Research was not uniform among the sample, with a quarter of respondents indicating they were either unaware or had low levels of understanding of Open Research.

The survey also posed questions around factors which encourage and discourage engagement with Open Research practices. Potential for broader dissemination and accessibility of research were reported most frequently as encouraging engagement. In contrast the perception that Open Research wasn’t relevant until after publication was a key discouraging factor. The issues of the cost and time commitment of Open Research featured in both positive and negative answers, a finding it will be interesting to see explored in the full analysis. Finally, the survey asked how Open Research practices are currently being used. A lack of information, training resources and dedicated funding were highlighted as key challenges.

Following presentation of the survey results, discussion centred on the survey’s findings of a gender difference in the perception of Open Research, with men found to have a more positive perception compared with women. It was suggested that the view of Open Research as introducing administrative burdens for researchers could be off-putting in an environment where this workload is already carried disproportionately by women.

The speakers would like to extend thanks to all who promoted the survey and helped achieve such a wide reach across the University. We all look forward to the sharing of the full findings in the new year. Champions will report findings from the survey and recommendations to the Committee on Open Research and Research Integrity in March.

Oxford | Berlin Summer School on Open Research

Auvikki de Boon, Sophie Read and Zoë Dennehy

A group of Open Research Champions reported on this year’s Oxford | Berlin Summer School on Open Research, which provided a free four-day programme of classes on transparent and reproducible research practice for early career researchers.

The course was held online this year and split between lectures and workshops, with an online community facilitated through a slack channel. Lectures dealt with 4 overarching themes: the importance of Open Research; methods and statistics; the use of coding; and Open Research Tools. Workshops then returned to these ideas in more detail. You can access slides for these sessions, along with some recordings, through the links below.

Importance of Open Research

  1. Setting the scene
  2. Ethics and integrity
  3. Reducing waste/increasing value

Keynote: Research Culture – a job for everyone

Methods and statistics

Lectures

  1. What to expect from replications
  2. How bias leads to entrenched errors

Workshops

  1. Data visualisation
  2. Safeguarding research integrity

Coding

Lectures

  1. Writing Readable code
  2. Free code and open data

Workshops

  1. Introduction to R and reproducible workflows
  2. Simulations of data in R
  3. Reproducible manuscripts in Rmarkdown
  4. Version control with Git (personal workflow or collaborative workflow) 

Open Research tools

Lectures

  1. FAIR data for humans and machines
  2. Open Access, preprints and scholarly publishing models
  3. Using meta-research to improve science

Workshops

  1. Creative commons
  2. Introduction to planning Research Data Management
  3. Planning writing and dissemination
  4. Preregistration
  5. Systemic reviews and meta analyses

All three speakers highly recommend the Summer School and are happy to be contacted if you are planning on applying next year. In particular they highlighted how the summer school showed that Open Research practices can be adopted in small steps. Attempting to apply a whole suite of new approaches at once can be overwhelming. Individually however, practices such as writing reproducible code and tools such as Rmarkdown are designed to make your life easier.

Applying for the school is a straightforward process, only requiring a 300 word statement of motivation, describing how the knowledge and skills acquired will be used for ongoing research. A statement of support from a supervisor or PI is also required. Financial support is available from the Summer School itself and also through the university’s own Open Research Fund.

Electronic lab notebook pilot study: an update

Cristiana Bercea has been leading a pilot study in the school Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy, encouraging the move from paper based lab notebooks to OneNote. The electronic notebooks are used to record protocols, raw data and for data analysis. So far there have been 7 participants in the school, who have provided feedback on a number of different electronic notebook software platforms. OneNote has been well received with 3 labs committing to switch permanently. Cristiana is currently planning on expanding the pilot to other schools at the University beginning the school of Biological Sciences.

Open Research practices in meteorology – panel discussion

Gabriel Perez is organising a panel discussion on Open Research in Meteorology as part of the department’s lunchtime seminar series on the 15th of February. There are plans for panels focusing on the needs of ECRs and for more senior staff. Gabriel hopes the panel discussions will initiate a department wide conversation about the impact Open Research can have on meteorology and climate science. This will help identify existing barriers to adoption and lay out ideas on how to increase uptake of open research practices.

There are a number of factors specific to Open Research in Meteorology which will be discussed during the panels. These include projects such as CMIP (Climate Model Intercomparison Project) which are already established drivers of reproducibility. But there are other subject-specific practices which can be barriers to reproducibility and the democratization of research, for example the continued use of obscure and poorly maintained codebases. In addition large data storage and data processing requirements can be barriers to researchers, particularly those without access to resources such as JASMIN – researchers in the Global south, for example. Some Open Research tools such as RMarkdown or jupyter also don’t meet the complex needs of meteorology research.

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