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.