This post is by Dr Dorka Tamas Postdoctoral Research Assistant.

The Open Research Case Studies conducted by Chris Cox and Dorka Tamás reveal the various open research practices employed by researchers at the University of Leeds. Further dissemination and analysis is planned, and while the case studies will not cover every aspect of research culture, more than 70 individual case studies give a general overview of open research practices across the University. This blog post focuses on the research methods used by researchers across different faculties and how to make them more open, whether qualitative, quantitative, or mixed-methods.   

More than a third of 74 published case studies include some form of quantitative research method, whether it is data analysis, various computational methods, software and code, or working in laboratories. In some cases, Citizen Science was also employed, whereby members of the public volunteer to collect research data or analyse the collected data. In biological sciences, citizen science is an increasingly used open research method.   

PAR = Participatory Action Research

Qualitative research methods comprised about 20% of the Case Studies, mainly representing the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures. Eleven case studies included discussions of participatory action research (PAR), a research method where participants are co-producers of the research and have an equal relationship with the researcher. Whereas PAR is used more often in the social sciences, researchers in the arts and humanities and health sciences have also utilised it. Participatory action research and citizen science are valued research methods in open research which are encouraged by funders to further facilitate public engagement and outreach.   

Mixed methods were also widely represented among the case studies: from health technology, psychology, and linguistics to political science, researchers employed mixed methods, such as disseminating focus-group interviews and social media posts with computational methods. Mixed methods are particularly prominent in the social sciences. Participatory action research occasionally accompanied mixed methods, demonstrating its value in opening research processes.    

Practice research, perhaps unsurprisingly, was only mentioned in three case studies. Practice research is used mainly in creative arts, such as music and performance studies, where the research output is the practice itself. Practice research poses challenges for open research since most data repositories are not designed to deposit various formats, and often ‘data’ is not the most suitable term to describe the embodied experience of the research. The case studies also included miscellaneous examples where Dorka and Chris interviewed staff from Leeds Special Collections, Researcher Development (OD&PL), Public Engagement, and external colleagues on topics such as open peer review and the Octopus open research platform.   

Research methods across the Open Research Case Studies show a slight bias towards quantitative research methods. STEM subjects have led open research movements where collaboration is essential, so it is not surprising that quantitative methods, such as data analysis with open-source code languages like Python and R, are widely represented.

However, qualitative methods are also increasingly open, with data deposited in repositories and research participants and members of the public increasingly having an active role in research projects.

It is important to note that open research is not ‘one size fits all’ and that we need to consider different types of research methods and how the principles of open research might (or might not) apply.