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Open Research


What is Open Research?

Open Research is an interchangeable term with 'Open Science'. A widely cited definition of open science is “the idea that scientific knowledge of all kinds should be openly shared as early as it is practical in the discovery process”. There are arguments that open science includes transparency of the research process (ie: making data and tools openly available), increased collaboration by making the research process public and open for anyone to join, and increased efforts to make science more available to the public.

Why Open Research?

Open Research embodies ideas of best research practice by opening access to results, data, protocols and other aspects of the research process. It also includes the use of open source software and open standards that offer unfettered dissemination of scientific discourse. By working in this manner it is likely we will increase reproducibility of research findings by providing full access to the major components of (particularly) scientific research. One argument for Open Research is the findings of medical research are disseminated too slowly under the current system.

Open Research is mainstream

The first academic institution to adopt an open science approach is McGill University's Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital. The guiding principles for this commitment are to share scientific data and resources, open external research partnerships, share research participant's contributions & protect their rights, not filing patents and respecting academic authority. The institute has received considerable donations in the wake of this decision, including $20 million in January 2017 to establish the Tanenbaum Open Science Institute.

Increasingly funders are embracing Open Research within their policies. The Wellcome Trust has identified Open Research as a new area of development with potential future strategic priority. They have recently launched Wellcome Open Research as a publishing platform for a range of research outputs. This is based on the F1000 platform and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are about to launch their own version, with the European Commission likely to follow suit.

Wellcome have also released a survey of open research practices among Wellcome-funded researchers. Towards open research, practices, experiences, barriers and opportunities was commissioned by the Wellcome Trust and conducted by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the UK Data Service.

The RCUK released its Concordat on Open Research Data in July 2016. This has a broader focus than the specific funder requirements to make research data underpinning research articles available. There has, of course, been a longstanding position on making funded research articles openly available.

In 2016 the US-based Robert Wood Johnson Foundation announced a call for funding in "Increasing openness and transparency in research".

In addition organisations and countries are embaracing the idea of Open Science. The Royal Society wrote in their 2012 paper Science as an open enterprise "Openness facilitates a systemic integrity that is conducive to early identification of error, malpractice and fraud, and therefore deters them. But this kind of transparency only works when openness meets standards of intelligibility and assessability - where there is intelligent openness." 

Open Research at Cambridge

Open Research has been the subject of a series of blog posts from the Unlocking Research blog at Cambridge. Researchers at Cambridge have expressed interest in this area.

OpenCon Cambridge is a group of interested researchers and administrators across campus who work together as a community to organise an annual satellite event and run an active discussion on the mailing list.

The MRC Cognition and Brain Science Unit organise an annual Open Science day.

Open Research organisations

There are many global organisations working towards an open future.

FORCE11 (Future Of Research Communications and eScholarship) is a community of scholars, librarians, archivists, publishers and research funders that has arisen organically to help facilitate the change toward improved knowledge creation and sharing. Individually and collectively, we aim to bring about a change in modern scholarly communications through the effective use of information technology.

SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) works to enable the open sharing of research outputs and educational materials in order to democratize access to knowledge, accelerate discovery, and increase the return on our investment in research and education. 

OpenCon is aimed at young researchers and is a platform for the next generation to learn about Open Access, Open Education, and Open Data, develop critical skills, and catalyze action toward a more open system for sharing the world’s information

Enabling Open Scholarship is an organisation for universities and research institutions worldwide. The organisation is both an information service and a forum for raising and discussing issues around the mission of modern universities and research institutions, particularly with regard to the creation, dissemination and preservation of research findings.

The Centre for Open Science began with a single project and is now a team of 50 people supporting a much larger collection
 of communities that are producing tools and services to align scientific practices with scientific values.

International Open Research activity

In Europe:

Similarly there is a proposal for an Australian Open Research Cloud in the 2016 National Research Infrastructure Capability Issue Paper.

The first steps have been taken to build an African Research Cloud.

In March 2015, the Government of Japan released Promoting Open Science in Japan Opening up a new era for the advancement of science Executive Summary Report by the Expert Panel on Open Science, based on Global Perspectives Cabinet Office.

Editorial open requirements

Guidelines for journals are increasingly including concepts of openness. The Transparency and Openness Promotion framework (TOP) contains eight separate editorial guidelines for journals, each designed to be useful across the breadth of empirical disciplines. The guidelines include citation standards, data transparency, code and research materials transparency and others.  Some of these general guidelines require additional discipline-specific explanations. There are some suggestions for how journals implement these guidelines - for example ‘Tools for Transparency in Ecology and Evolution’.

Examples of Open Research

There are some oustanding examples of Open Research in action. The Open Source Malaria research project is guided by open source principles, where everything is open and anyone can contribute.

In HIV research, the HIC Collaborative DataSpace  is a response to the need for “a dramatic shift in the culture and practice of sharing research data.” They create “databases for sharing trial data globally and an insistence on pursuing diverse hypotheses.”


Open Research Newsletter sign-up

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