Open Research across disciplines

By Camilla Gilmore, Chair of Loughborough University’s Open Research Group and Professor of Mathematical Cognition

One of the challenges of institutional change around open research practices is the diversity of disciplines involved. Open research covers a range of activities that promote the openness, transparency, rigour, and reproducibility of research. These values are relevant to all disciplines, but the way these activities are applied and the (perceived) barriers to using them can look very different in different disciplines. 

The challenges of promoting open data provide a clear example of this. In behavioural sciences, where quantitative and qualitative research data comes from human participants, one of the major challenges is how to share data ethically and anonymously. In contrast, in STEM subjects, particularly where industrial partnerships are common, the challenges are around confidentiality, commercial sensitivity and IP protection instead. Consequently, promoting open data at an institutional level must be informed by these different concerns and challenges and provide appropriate disciplinary-specific training and support.

This was a problem that I became immediately aware of when I took over the role of chair of Loughborough’s Open Research Working Group (ORWG) in early 2020. As individual researchers, our perceptions of the “state of the art” of open research are informed by our own disciplinary experience. But to make institutional change, we need to ensure that the systems supporting open research and the opportunities and incentives we promote apply to researchers in all disciplines. I felt that I didn’t know enough about what open research looks like in other disciplines.

Fortunately, I was not alone in feeling like this. Professor Emily Farran (Academic Lead, Research Culture and Integrity, University of Surrey) had similar concerns, and so we decided that it would be beneficial to draw together examples of open research practices and resources across as wide a range of disciplines as possible. This project quickly became a substantial task and benefitted from many authors and contributors. The resulting document, Open Research: Examples of good practice, and resources across disciplines (osf.io/3r8hb) was initially launched in December 2020. The document is updated annually in response to suggestions and feedback from readers (if you think good practice in your discipline is missing, why not suggest it here?).

This work has now been incorporated into the UKRN (UK Reproducibility Network) webpages, where 28 separate disciplinary pages provide case studies, examples of open research practices and disciplinary-specific resources. These highlight that, while open research practices may look different in different disciplines, there is much to learn by looking beyond our own discipline and seeing commonalities in approaches.

At Loughborough, we are ensuring that our institutional activities are sensitive to disciplinary differences by creating Open Research Leads in each school who sit on the ORWG. But we are building on the commonality of challenges by working across schools to provide training and opportunities. Look out for more opportunities in the coming academic year.

The views and opinions of this article are the author’s and do not reflect those of the University…although hopefully they do reflect Loughborough University values.

A different kind of diversity

By Lara Skelly, Open Research Manager for Data and Methods

A few years ago, I submitted a methodological paper to a discipline-specific journal. The reviewers were not kind, one of them saying “There is no narrative of the findings.” Well naturally not, as the findings were the methodology I was describing. While entirely likely that I presented the purpose of the paper poorly, being a freshly minted PhD with limited publication experience, I remember the confusion I felt around the limited expectation of the reviewers.

Methodological papers are still a rarity, despite the slightly increased popularity that I saw during the COVID lockdowns. Most researchers that I encounter still see the typical paper of introduction-literature review-methods-results-discussion as the only format worth putting out into the world. And as is the case in any one-size-fits-all approach, much is lost by this homogeneity.

Research and the people who work in research are anything but homogenous. I have seen all manner of opinions of what counts for science, what data are, and ways of engaging with their craft. I’ve known researchers who are interested in the broad and the narrow, the individual and the collective, the future and the past. Boxing this variety into a homogenous communication is in this day-and-age, down-right daft.

We are in a wonderful age that strives to see diversity as a celebration. The time has come to celebrate the diversity in our research as well. To recognise that the typical paper format is perfectly fine, but researchers are not restricted to it. Sharing code, protocols, data, any of the ingredients of our research is one way that we can live our diversity, upholding a value that has become global.

Thanks to Katie Appleton and Gareth Cole for insightful comments on early drafts.

The views and opinions of this article are my own and do not reflect those of the University…although hopefully they do reflect Loughborough University values.

AHRC Technical Plans – training event

On Wednesday 23rd  September I will be leading a training session on “Writing a Successful Technical Plan for the AHRC”. Prof. Richard Bibb, an AHRC Technical Plan reviewer, will also be in attendance to give a reviewer’s perspective. The session will be held in the Stewart Mason Building (room SMB .02) between 1200 and 1300. Lunch will be provided for attendees. Please book through the Online Store so we have an idea of numbers.

If you are currently working on an AHRC application or think that you may do so in the future please do come along and find out what to include in your Technical Plan. We will be working through a couple of examples of existing plans so that you can see what a successful plan looks like.

For further information please contact Kate Clift in the Research Office, Gareth Cole in the Library or see our poster for the AHRC Technical Plan session.

“Projects” functionality in the data repository

Loughborough’s data repository has recently been upgraded with additional functionality. You can still deposit data as an individual (please contact rdm@lboro.ac.uk for more information or if you wish to deposit data) but you can now also set up “Projects”.

Currently limited to Loughborough University members, Projects allows you to set up a collaborative space where data can be shared and checked amongst a research group. How Projects is used is up to you and your group.

If you think that this functionality would be useful for your research group or research project please do get in contact. Data associated with Projects can be kept private or published in the same manner as data on your individual accounts.

Each Project will have an initial storage allocation of 10GBs although this could be increased on application to the Research Data Manager on rdm@lboro.ac.uk.

Publisher Policies

Although it is usually funder policies which are seen to push the research data management (RDM) agenda, a number of publishers also have data policies. Three of these policies are identified below:

PLOS: PLOS state in their policy that “PLOS journals require authors to make all data underlying the findings described in their manuscript fully available without restriction, with rare exception”. At the point of submission authors must provide a Data Availability Statement. They strongly recommend that the data is deposited in a repository.

Royal Society: The Royal Society Open Data Policy states that “it is a condition of publication that authors make available the data and research materials supporting the results in the article”. Similarly to PLOS, all manuscripts submitted to Royal Society journals should contain a Data Accessibility Statement which states where the supporting data can be accessed.

Nature Group: Nature Group policy states that “authors are required to make materials, data, code, and associated protocols promptly available to readers without undue qualifications“. Supporting data must also be made available to editors and peer-reviewers at the time of submission.

If your data is covered by a commercial agreement or cannot be released under the Data Protection Act then you will not be expected to make that data public. However, as with funder policies you should make efforts to release as much of your data as possible and/or practicable.

If you wish to publish data in Loughborough’s data repository please contact rdm@lboro.ac.uk.

ARMA2015

Last week we attended the Association of Research Managers and Administrators‘ (ARMA) annual conference in Brighton. We were presenting on our Research Data Repository which was launched at the end of April.

Although our session part of the last panel of the conference it was still well attended with representatives from both universities and funders. As part of our talk we had decided to hold c30-45 minute breakout/discussion sessions. Not only were these sessions an opportunity for attendees to ask us additional questions about our repository but it was also an opportunity for us to discover the lay of the land at other institutions.

As someone with a research background but who has worked in libraries for the past 10 years it was interesting to hear some of the comments from the research managers and administrators. It is a view I have heard before but until the growth of open access and research data management at universities many research office staff were not aware that the ‘Library did research’.

One of the many advantages of the current “open landscape” at universities is that many departments that previously had limited or even no contact with each other (or contact only in very specific areas) e.g. Research Office, IT, Library, now have regular and meaningful contact across a number of areas. (For example, within a week of starting at Loughborough I had met colleagues from IT and the Research Office as part of my induction and work with them on a weekly (if not daily) basis.) Not only does this regular contact help to reduce any duplication of effort but it also means that staff working in those departments now have the opportunity to have a more holistic view of how research is conducted and supported at their organisation. As such, they are able to do their jobs with an understanding of how their decisions and work may affect others at the institution. Most importantly, it means that we are better placed to provide the support that researchers and academics may require.

This holistic view is particularly important at the moment when one considers the demands on academic staff in both research and teaching.

EPSRC Data Expectations

Today (1st May 2015) is the day when Universities have to be compliant with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s (EPSRC) data expectations. At Loughborough we have been working towards being compliant for the past 18 months or so.

These expectations require Loughborough to securely preserve data created by EPSRC funded researchers for at least 10 years. Metadata about any data created should also be public within 12 months of the data being generated. In addition, any article based on RCUK (including EPSRC) funded research should include a statement saying where the supporting data can be accessed.

Earlier this week our repository for archiving research data was launched. It can be found here: https://lboro.figshare.com/. As can be seen, the repository is based on figshare’s figshare for institutions offering and we have been working very closely with them to create a Loughborough instance to both preserve and highlight the research data created by Loughborough’s researchers. The back end archival storage is provided by Arkivum.

The repository has already been populated with the data from PLoS articles written by Loughborough researchers.

We have held a couple of workshops already and over the next few weeks and months we will be holding sessions where researchers and other interested parties (Librarians, Research Office staff etc.) can come and find out more about the repository and research data management (RDM) in more detail. The next two are currently planned for 13th May and 26th June. If you wish to attend you can contact me for more information.

The repository is only one part of our offering. I was recently appointed (March 2015) as Research Data Manager to help support Loughborough’s RDM offerings and we will soon be updating and expanding our webpages with more information and advice on RDM matters.

In the meantime, if you wish to find out more, or wish to deposit data in the repository, please do contact me (Gareth Cole) on g.j.cole@lboro.ac.uk. We have also set up a general email address in case I am out of the office. This address is rdm@lboro.ac.uk.

Updated ESRC policy on Research Data

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) has recently released an updated version of its research data policy. This can be found at: http://www.esrc.ac.uk/about-esrc/information/data-policy.aspx (link to the PDF of the policy at the bottom of the page).

The ESRC policy now maps more clearly to the RCUK Common Principles on Data Policy. In addition, the updated ESRC policy explains in far greater detail than before the responsibilities of: ESRC grant applicants, ESRC grant holders, grant holders’ institutions, the ESRC itself, and ESRC data service providers.

If you are ESRC funded, based at Loughborough University, and wondering how this policy may affect you please do contact me (Gareth Cole – Research Data Manager) on g.j.cole(at)lboro.ac.uk.

 

Over 1,000 research data repositories available in re3data.org

In August 2012 re3data.org – the Registry of Research Data Repositories went online with 23 entries. Two years later the registry provides researchers, funding organisations, libraries and publishers with over 1,000 listed research data repositories from all over the world making it the largest and most comprehensive online catalog of research data repositories on the web. re3data.org provides detailed information about the research data repositories, and its distinctive icons help researchers easily identify relevant repositories for accessing and depositing data sets.

To more than 5,000 unique visitors per month re3data.org offers reliable orientation in the heterogeneous landscape of research data repositories. An average of 10 repositories are added to the registry every week. The latest indexed data infrastructure is the new CERN Open Data Portal: http://service.re3data.org/repository/r3d100011381

[Taken from a Re3data update in November 2014]

Guide to Publishing and Sharing Sensitive Data

The Australian National Data Service (ANDS) has just released a Guide to Publishing and Sharing Sensitive Data which includes a decision tree to help researchers decide whether they can publish such data. The guide is written for the Australian context; however it provides generic information on the issues associated with handling sensitive data.