This section of the guide provides an introduction to Open Research. We explain what it is, what you have to do and what you can do. We also explain why Open Research is important, and explode some common myths.
Open Research is a set of principles and practices whose aim is to make the outputs of research freely accessible and usable, thereby to maximise the possibility of public benefit. It has been described as ‘scholarly research that is collaborative, transparent and reproducible and whose outputs are publicly available’ (Integrated advice of the Open Science Policy Platform). It is based on the principle that knowledge produces the greatest benefits if it is shared as widely as possible.
Open Research is relevant to all researchers and all disciplines, although the applications will differ according to discipline and research context. There are many different definitions of Open Research, but a number of themes can be identified (not all of which are relevant in all cases):
The principles of Open Research are reflected in the policies of many public funders and research organisations that promote greater public access to research, and in evolving models of scholarly communication. Change is also being driven by the needs of academic communities and stakeholders among the general public, in industry, and in the developing world.
The terms Open Science and Open Research are both widely-used. In practice they can be regarded as synonymous. Our preferred term is Open Research, as this clearly applies to all disciplines, including those in the arts and humanities and the social sciences.
In Europe, Open Science usually applies to research in all disciplines. But the term is also commonly used in specific reference to the empirical sciences, where issues of accessibility, transparency and reproducibility are most acute. While access to the outputs of research is important irrespective of the discipline or nature of the research, many open practices are mostly or solely relevant to the sciences. For example: researchers in all disciplines should share their primary data and materials in order to maximise their value and enable re-use, but it is only in scientific research that data are essential to the validation and reproduction of experimental results. Some open practices, such as pre-registration of study designs, are only relevant to scientific disciplines.
Some definitions of Open Research/Open Science are provided below. You can see that while these each take slightly different perspectives, together they converge around a set of core definitions, which include elements of accessibility, transparency, reproducibility, collaboration, timeliness, and sustainability.
The following open practices are considered in this guide:
Open Access publication of research outputs and open sharing of primary research data and supporting materials (e.g. code written to process or analyse data) are core practices. They are general to research in all disciplines, and are subject to requirements in the policies of public funders and research organisations. (Of course, the requirements only apply where the outputs in question are generated: not all research activities will involved collection of primary data.)
Other practices will be relevant only to certain types of research and in certain contexts, and are not generally required by policy. They exist, therefore, as possibilities for researchers, and not obligations. But they all offer solutions to specific problems, or a means of advancing the aims of Open Research. For example: preprints and open peer review procedures are solutions to inefficiences in the traditional system of research dissemination and certification; pre-registrations and registered reports are solutions to problems associated with the conduct and reporting of empirical research; software and data papers are vehicles for promoting the recognition and re-use of other types of research output; citizen science platforms create new research possibilities by bringing the wisdom of crowds to bear on analytical problems that cannot be solved by machine processing.
There are two Open Research requirements that apply to both members of staff and research students. Researchers are required:
In most cases compliance with these policies will also entail the release of Open Access research outputs and open research data. (Although this does not necessarily follow: manuscripts deposited in CentAUR are made available by default under the CentAUR End User Agreement, which is not an open licence, unless an item has been published by the publisher under an Open Access licence; not all data can be shared openly, and University policy allows for justified restrictions on data sharing.)
Apart from these two requirements, none of the practices discussed in this guide are mandatory. But the University's Statement on Open Research encourages researchers to use open practices where possible. This guide is aimed at helping you to explore the possibilities and benefits of using open practices in your research.
So Open Research is accessible, transparent and reproducible. But, to paraphrase one author, isn't that just research? In other words, what is the problem with research that makes people insist on the need for it to be open?
In fact, research has several problems:
No! Open Research is for all researchers in all disciplines. Whatever your discipline, you are expected by policy to use Open Access publication to communicate your findings, and to share any primary data or computer code that support these findings. It is true that some open practices (such as study pre-registration) will only be relevant to empirical sciences, and that others, such as data sharing, will be less relevant in disciplines and methods of research where primary data collection is rarely used. But this should not obscure the central relevance of Open Research principles to the manner in which research, of whatever discipline, is made accessible to, and re-usable by, other people.
This is a misleading opposition. Time spent on Open Research is time spent making research better. Open Research is about accessibility, transparency and reproducibility. If your research is more open to scrutiny, you can increase critical input, improve research design, reduce the incidence of error, and produce better work. If it is communicated sooner, it has greater opportunity to generate benefits for yourself and others. If your research outputs are more accessible, they are more likely to be used and cited, your research has greater reach, and the likelihood of making productive connections with peers and users of the research is increased.
That doesn't mean no-one would be interested if your data were available from a data repository. Norms take time to become established. If people do not know that the data are available, or if the data are not available online, then the majority will not make the effort to find or seek access to them. Perhaps there are people who would like to view your data, but don't want to have to ask. If people know your data are easily accessible, then they will be more inclined to discover and use them. There may well be readers of your research who would view your data if they could, or would realise how the data could be useful to them if they were easily accessible.
Have you tried accessing the articles you need from off campus, without logging in using your University account? Two thirds of the scholarly record is hidden behind paywalls. What does that look like if you don't have an affiliation to research organisation? Or if you are based in the developing world, and your University can't afford the cost of journal subscriptions?