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Open Research


An Open Research Working Group (ORWG) was established at the request of the General Board to develop a position statement on open research on behalf of the University. The working group, which reported to Research Policy Committee and includes representatives from each School, central services and the postdoctoral community, was chaired by Professor Richard Penty (Master of Sidney Sussex College / Department of Engineering).

This work began with a survey to capture evidence and to consult over existing practices and perceptions of open research in different academic disciplines. The findings helped the group better understand issues and opportunities associated with open research, and  helped steer future initiatives like policy, infrastructure and service development and information.

About Open Research

The working group started from the premise that there are many different definitions of open research. A brief summary might describe open research as a philosophy and movement that embodies the goal of opening access to research outcomes to increase collaboration and access to knowledge. Open research can also help underpin the reproducibility of research and research integrity.

Open research is reflected in the principles adopted today by many research funders that research and the findings of research should be more freely available to the public.   

Open research does not assume everything can or should be made openly accessible; indeed advance planning and management of research data (including primary sources) is an intrinsic part of the protocols of open research intended to ensure proper management of rights, including the interests of authors and subjects.

There are many elements to open research and not all are relevant or equally attractive to all disciplines. For instance, open access to large-scale digitised research resources, like historic archives, are valuable to the arts, humanities and social sciences; and open access to the most up to date biomedical findings are highly relevant to medical research and clinical practice.

Equally, free public access to research findings is not always possible or appropriate for a range of ethical (e.g. pertaining to sensitive personal data), legal (e.g. pertaining to third-party rights, like copyright) or other reasons (e.g. patents and other commercial interests).

It is worth noting that European discussions in this area use the term 'open science' which incorporates all scholarship. The working group is using the more inclusive term, open research, that has greater potential to reflect the breadth of academic activity at the University inclusive of all subjects. The working group is committed to drawing out examples of Open Research practices in different disciplines and to understanding different concerns and aspirations about open research.

A useful typology on ‘openness in research’ identifies three pillars of open research: open content, open infrastructure and open development. In this survey, our main focus is on open content. Open development, which includes concepts of open peer review and open educational practices, is largely out of scope of the consultation.

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