What are the benefits of Open Research?
Greater transparency in the research process and data underpinning academic publications can improve research integrity, preventing cases of data manipulation or misrepresentation, thereby engendering greater confidence in published findings.
Higher citation rates have been found for those publications available on an open access basis, allowing your work to reach the widest audience and removing cost barriers for you and others in accessing research of interest.
Greater opportunities for collaboration are enabled when data, protocols and publications are more widely available.
Greater efficiencies (and value for money) as research does not need to be repeated. Software code, data and protocols can be shared and reused, thus maximising the impacts that a research project can have beyond simply making publications openly available.
Increased visibility and availability of research materials have the potential to raise researchers’ profiles both within and outside their discipline.
Compliance with funder mandates that support open research by requiring the data arising from research they have funded to be openly available.
Open Research and funders
Funders worldwide are incorporating open research practices in their policies and requesting evidence of such in their grant proposals and reviews.
Wellcome Trust state that they want the research they fund to be open and accessible so it can have the greatest possible impact.
UKRI supports open research and says it plays an important role in maximising the impact of publicly-funded research and innovation.
The open research funders group, a partnership of philanthropic organisations, is committed to the open sharing of research outputs.
Open Research and the research lifecycle
The principles of Open Research apply across all disciplines. The core idea is that both processes and outputs of research should be made as open and transparent as possible.
‘Open’ can encompass the whole lifecycle of a project from proposals through protocols and funding, to dissemination and sharing. Becoming an ‘open’ researcher is something to work towards, there are a number of open practices you can implement. When considering the possibilities, you should take the approach of being as open as possible, as closed as necessary. Open Research practices acknowledge that access to some research will have to remain closed where there are good reasons.
Register your research project
Pre-registration of research, especially in the health and psychological sciences is becoming more common, either using platforms such as Open Science Framework or if mandatory (as is the case in many countries) the ISRCTN.
You could also consider a Registered Report (PDF), a type of journal article that involves peer review of the background, study design, methods, and analysis plan (i.e. the stage 1 manuscript) before data are collected. Registered Reports are attractive because if the proposed study is accepted, the study’s results will be published regardless of the outcome.
Software and code
Sharing your code and software can help other researchers and raise your profile. Making your code and software open source is the best way to achieve this. Preserve and release the code under an open licence using a data repository or code repository platform such as Github or Gitlab.
Cite your code by version and if possible cite with a unique persistent identifier, such as a DOI. The Software Sustainability Institute is a useful resource for more information and guidance.
Electronic lab books
These allow sharing of your methods and materials, either openly or limited to a research team (with the ability to share more widely later if desired). Whilst such tools have been available for a while there is no universal take up of them yet. The University of Cambridge’s Gurdon Institute have some good guidance.
Preprints allow for rapid communication with other researchers. Preprints are a version of academic papers that have yet to go through a peer review process and so their levels of use vary between disciplines. There has been a steady growth in preprint services and journal publishers who welcome submission of material initially made available as a preprint. Some funders, such as the Wellcome Trust now allow preprints to be cited in funding applications and support the use of preprints in communicating early results, especially in matters of public health.
Open peer review
Open peer review is an umbrella term for various alternative review methods that seek to make classical peer review more transparent and accountable.
You can engage with open peer reviewing either by submitting to journals/publishers that operate an open peer review process, or by reviewing for these journals and posting your reviews online.
Your own open practice experiences
The Open Research team would love to hear from University of Liverpool colleagues who have experience of one or more of these practices. Please email the Head of Open Research, Martin Wolf, to tell us more.
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