On Tuesday 13 June Brenda and Nick from the research data team attended a NoWAL event at the University of Manchester on Open Research. Strictly NoWAL is for North West Academic Libraries so thanks for letting us in from the wrong side of the Pennines!

If you’re an academic, or work in scholarly communication, you’ll know that ‘open’ is big business in 2019, quite literally as the costs associated with open access are increasing and the sector continues to grapple with the affordable transition to full open access (see recent announcement that Plan S has been delayed for a year and our recent blogpost on the revised implementation guidance.)

The Open Agenda

“The Open Agenda” goes well beyond open access to journal articles however, comprising open data, open source software and open educational resources. In her opening presentation, Helen Blanchett from Jisc highlighted the scale of the challenge in terms of technology, skills and culture. While mandates have succeeded in getting content into the open and to some extent in changing researcher’s behaviour, we are increasingly bogged down with issues of compliance and not necessarily winning hearts and minds to really effect cultural change.

Helen discussed Jisc’s work in this area and drew attention to two recent publications, the Strategy for culture change from the Center for Open Science and the Association of College and Research Libraries report on Open and Equitable Scholarly Communications.

Helen also flagged up the UK Reproducibility Network as an example of a bottom-up initiative that is having a real impact on institutional culture. Indeed we’ve been working with Peter Tennant here at Leeds on setting up a local network. See this document for more information or check out the hashtag on Twitter #UKRNLeeds


Promoting a culture of Open Research

Next up were Joshua Sendall,  Hardy Schwamm and Louise Tripp discussing how they are “Promoting a culture of Open Research” at Lancaster University.

Via their excellent blog Highly Relevant I’ve been aware of their work for a while, running a regular series of Data Conversations for researchers from all disciplines and career stages to tell their “data stories”. Meanwhile an “Open Research Cafe” has been introduced to facilitate broader discussions around open research. It was great to learn more about these events (and the amount of pizza consumed). The message is both challenging and inspiring: if we want to change culture we need to change the ingrained beliefs, values and structures within our institutions. Lancaster are also in the process of developing an Open Research Policy along the lines of those at Cambridge (Open Research Position Statement) and Reading (Statement on Open Research).

See this blogpost for more on Lancaster’s contribution to the day including a useful workshop using a Mission Model Canvas to help develop an Open Research community in a holistic way.

A workshop on innovations and tools in Scholarly Communications

After lunch Judith Carr treated us to a workshop exploring the (literally) hundreds of tools that researchers have to navigate on the web and that promise to make their lives easier, often with “freemium” models where essential functionality is available for free with additional features available for a fee. The workshop was based on 101 Innovations in Scholarly Communication and asked us to rank a subset of tools in a specific sub-domain of the scholarly workflow.

I was in the ‘W’ group for Writing where we looked at tools like overleaf (The easy to use, online, collaborative LaTeX editor) and authorea (Open Research Publishing for the 21st Century). Others looked at tools focused on ‘D’ for Discovery, ‘A’ for Analysis, ‘P’ for Publication etc

Is this the way to reproducibility? Working as a librarian on an open research project

Next up on a packed agenda was Rosie Higman talking about her involvement with the Turing Way. Rosie cited barriers to reproducibility for researchers that include lack of skills, feeling under scrutiny and a lack of reward for making data more open.

The Turing Way “handbook for reproducible data science” was created during a series of book “dashes” and was committed to working in the open, sharing all documentation at every stage and encouraging contributions from a diverse range of researchers.

Rosie emphasised the role that Library and information professionals can play in supporting reproducibility including Research Data Management support, community building, relationship management, and implementation.

Open Access+: reaching broader audiences

Being proponents of an institutional Twitter account ourselves, it was very interesting to hear from Steve Carlton about how Manchester are adding value to their existing open access support services by helping researchers to reach their academic and non-academic audiences via Twitter and signposting platforms like Kudos and The Conversation. Meanwhile Altmetric.com is a powerful tool to track online engagement and to identify academics and others who may have an interest in a given article.

When they upload a manuscript on acceptance (as required for REF compliance) researchers can indicate if they would like it to be considered for publicity by the university media relations team and/or promoted via Library social media.

If they check the box, they receive a Communities of Attention report using @Altmetric data to generate a customised list of Twitter accounts that researchers might be interested in following and who might be interested in the paper.

When a paper is published the Library team put together a Twitter thread that brings together everything you would want to know about a paper. They post a link to the article and tag the authors, their Schools and any research groups they might be involved in. They also acknowledge any funders, link to accompanying research data and signpost related research projects.

A really neat touch that generated lots of interest in the room is @Scholarcy to help interpret the work and produce non-technical summaries.

We’ll certainly be exploring some of these ideas from @OpenResLeeds, another example of collaboration between Manchester and Leeds?

Open Research: a research funder perspective

Our final speaker of the day, David Carr from the Wellcome Trust, emphasised that it is fundamental that outputs from Wellcome funded research are openly available to help improve health for everyone. A dedicated open research team supports researchers to develop cutting edge approaches to openness and lead in the development of policies to sustain open research practices. Funding is available to support open research – for existing grant holders there is a fund to bid for extra money to support open research approaches to enhance the impact of their research:

The Trust’s Open Research platform provides all @wellcometrust researchers with a place to rapidly publish any results they think are worth sharing. All articles benefit from immediate publication, transparent peer review and the inclusion of all source data.

Wellcome has had a mandatory open access policy since 2005, reviewed in 2018 concurrent with the development of Plan S and updated in May 2019 to come into effect in 2021. The new policy encourages preprints, indeed it requires them when there is a public health emergency, and explicitly requires data and software availability statements in articles. Institutions will also need to publicly support the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) to be eligible for Wellcome funding.

David acknowledged that the evidence base for the value of open research is underdeveloped and that there are numerous barriers to open research, not least the variation of support and incentives for researchers to work openly in different disciplines. As well as embedding evaluation across their open research funding activities, Wellcome are working with McGill University, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, BEIS and others to define success measures and associated indicators for open science.

At the end of a thoroughly enjoyable and informative day, David posed a question that we hereby pass on to anyone reading this, perhaps rephrased from a Library Research Support perspective, i.e. how can we in the Library more effectively engage with our research communities around open research?