“Mommy, how much do you think the Jaws LEGO set will cost?” asked my seven-year-old the other night as I was putting him to bed. His dad had told him earlier that day that the LEGO Review Board had officially announced that a build design, submitted by a LEGO fan, based on the 1974 novel by Peter Benchley, which was the source of the 1975 Steven Spielberg movie, was going to be in production. As my son is an ardent enthusiast of all things with big teeth, a LEGO Jaws set was the best news since he discovered that he could build a mosasaurus.
When companies like LEGO, IKEA, Unilever and NASA crowdsource design, innovations and problem-solving, it is termed open innovation. It is one example where a commercial venture works in synergy with open research practices. At Loughborough University, our researchers have worked with companies like Rolls Royce, Jaguar, Airbus, and Adidas. While some of the research outputs are embargoed due to commercial restrictions, there are parts of the research that can and is made openly available.
Negotiations of what can be made openly available should take place before the contract is signed. If you are a researcher who is working with commercial funding, be sure to check if your methods, data collection tools, and data (perhaps in an aggregated format) can be shared and under what conditions. In the discussions I’ve had, I have found commercial funders willing to work with researchers in opening as much of the research as is sensibly possible.
And thank goodness they are because, without open innovation, I wouldn’t be in the running for the best Christmas present award from my seven-year-old.
By Dr. Tincuta Heinzel, Senior Lecturer in Textiles and Open Research Lead, School of Design and Creative Arts
Starting with the 1st of April 2022, all submitted for publication research that a public body has funded must comply with the Open Access policy. This rule applies to all UKRI research councils, Research England, and Innovate UK-funded projects. Open Research and Open Data compliance means that the researchers must make their research publications Open Access, make their research data as open as possible, follow good research data management practices, and acknowledge their funder in any outputs. (for more details, please check here). Still, many particulars are to be addressed regarding Open Science and research, like, for example, the right to privacy when it comes to Open Data or the way each discipline will implement this policy.
Given the previous research publication models, this new policy implies a paradigmatic change that aims to facilitate everyone’s access to the research results and enable them to re-use and build upon them. The Open Access Policy builds on ideas popularised by movements such as Free Software (Free Software Foundation) launched in 1983 or Open Source Software Initiative, both aiming to offer alternatives to commercial computer operating systems to facilitate experimentation and innovation in the digital arena. Both movements adhere to philosophies that place free access to the source code and collaboration at their core. As their manifestos state (here and here), it is about the freedom to use, study, distribute, create, and modify any operating system, with the difference that the free software focuses on the users’ freedom, while Open-Source software is focusing on collaboration and transparency of the source code to provide improvements to the operating systems; which translates in the fact that not all Open-Source software is free software, for example. The same principles also apply to free hardware, which refers to the freedom to build, modify, and distribute hardware designs. Arduino and Raspberry Pi boards are good examples in this sense. The educative role of most of these projects is at the core of all these cases.
The application of the Open Research and Open Science policy in creative arts and design has nothing of the obvious. At the crossroad between science and technologies, between humanities and natural sciences, the place of research in creative arts and design is a minefield. Concepts such as “tacit knowledge” (Polanyi, 1958) often address the complexity of research in creative arts and design, expressing the limits of translating certain aspects of the practice into generally accepted forms of research. The nature of the outputs makes things even less straightforward. An exhibition is already an open, public presentation of an artist’s work, but does it count as research? What exactly is research in creative arts and design? What is the role of design theory and design practice in design research? How to find harmony between “research for”, “research into”, and “research through” design (Savic et al., 2014; Zimmerman et al., 2010), for example, with Open Science and Open Data policy?
Moreover, not all artistic and design research results in texts; in many cases, it is about products, objects, swatch books, processes, and methodologies. In some cases, it is about industrious initiatives and not merely educational purposes. The research in creative arts and design might reflect and use different media, such as images, sound compositions, video recordings and films, codes, or, as in the case of interactive arts and design, it might be about all of them.
Let’s take a closer look at the case of textiles and textiles patterns. In general, when it comes to textile designs and patterns, these are defined as designs (see the difference between artistic copyright, designs, and trademarks). As an e-textiles designer, I came across situations where the status of Open Publication and Open Research has been challenged.
The Open Software movement inspired designers such as Hannah Perner-Wilson (aka plusea.at) to develop a series of textiles-based sensors and to release them into the public domain. Her “tilt sensor” developed during her master studies at MIT (Perner-Wilson, 2011) has been appropriated by a group of scientists (Hyung Sun Lee, Daejeon (KR); Hyung Cheol Shin, Daejeon (KR); Thad E. Starner, Atlanta, GA (US); Scott M. Gilliland, Atlanta, GA (US) and Clint Zeagler, Atlanta, GA (US)) from the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute, Daejeon, Korea and, respectively Georgia Tech Research Corporation, Atlanta, USA, and patented based on the argument that her work would be an artistic product and not scientific research. Still, it is to question how legitim such a patent is when it doesn’t recognise the scientific merit of an author and boycotts the designer’s ideological choices (Heinzel, 2018).
The same ambiguity can be seen when it comes to the cultural appropriation of traditional textiles’ patterns. Plenty of cases show the appropriation of the work of “collective authors” has been used for the financial gain of some brands. It is the case of the legal action of the Indigenous Mexican Community against Isabel Marant, who used their patterns for her collection, or the Maasai Association for Preserving and Celebrating Maasai Cultural Heritage legal action against companies like Louis Vuitton, Calvin Klein, or Jaguar Land Rover, who were using the image of Maasai warriors to sell their products (Pilling, 2018). In the same category could be included the media campaign “Bihor, not Dior” (Davies, 2018). Still, when it comes to woven structures, for example, we can easily argue that we deal with a certain form of ethnomathematics (logical structures that await to be discovered) and not really designs.
In some cases, the designs are about the notations of the steps to produce the pattern and not about the patterns themselves. This logic of notation approach brings us closer to the aspects related to programming and digital rights. We can notice a series of ambiguities when defining and applying a pattern’s legal status and a series of breaches into the legal system(s) (Heinzel, 2018).
Suppose there is justified to request that the public-funded research be publicly released. In that case, aspects still need to be pondered as they interfere with the existing legal, economic, or ethical orders. Moreover, as the cases of cultural appropriation are proving, there is also an aspect of legitimacy that should be considered. Certainly, there is still work to be done to address these issues.
Below are a series of useful links related to Open Research compliance guidance and links for information related to designs, patents, or trademarks.
Heinzel, T. (2018). Patented Patterns: On the art and science of patterns. A critical inquiry, Proceedings of the Politics of the Machines – Art and After (EVA Copenhagen) Conference, May 2018, DOI: 10.14236/ewic/EVAC18.8.
Polanyi, M. (1958). Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-67288-3.
Savic, S., Huang, J. (2014). Research Through Design: What Does it Mean for a Design Artifact to be Developed in the Scientific Context?, Proceedings of the 5th STS Italia Conference : A Matter of Design. Making Society through Science and Technology, Milan, Italy, DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.4306.6729.
By Krzysztof Cipora, Lecturer in Mathematical Cognition, Open Research Lead of the School of Science, Centre for Mathematical Cognition, Loughborough University, email@example.com, @krzysztofcipora
Most funding agencies require grant proposals to contain a data management plan. It may seem an extra burden to prepare yet another document, as all applicants have been handling research data and know how to do it, so why mandate such a technicality in the proposal? At the same time, many researchers have not been formally trained in data management. Open Research practices becoming more and more widely adopted (and more and more often mandated by funders) include Open Data, that is sharing research data, either in the public domain or granting access to other researchers. No matter whether shared publicly or with some restrictions, the data need to be understandable and usable. This requires the data to be thoroughly curated, documented, and at best to go along with the programming code used for its processing and analysis. Researchers also benefit from good data curation and documentation if they come back to their own data after a few months or years. Data management is even more critical in large-scale projects including many researchers, research assistants etc. However, the document typically supplied to the funder is relatively short (space restrictions!) and therefore quite generic, so it cannot fully satisfy the day-to-day data management needs.
In June 2022 at Loughborough University, we launched £ 9 989 000 Centre for Early Mathematics Learning (CEML; ceml.ac.uk) funded within ESRC Research Centre scheme. Funding covers a period of five years and over twenty-five researchers from several institutions are involved within five CEML challenges. They are supported by several research assistants and PhD students. Various types of data are being gathered. One of the crucial issues at the CEML onset was to ensure we are on the same page with data management. It has been necessary for several reasons both within CEML and for future data sharing. The same variables should be named and coded consistently across studies to streamline the readability of the data, facilitate the re-use of analysis code, and collapse datasets if needed. In case a researcher is reallocated from one study to another, they can catch up easily. Keeping our data curated and consistent for ourselves also makes it more accessible to other researchers when we share it with the community.
Together with other colleagues, I took on preparing a detailed Data Management Policy for the CEML. In the following, I briefly describe what we did and how this might be used as an example for other projects (including much smaller ones).
We started from the Data Management Policy from the CEML proposal and elaborated on the details (see CEML Data Management Policy https://doi.org/10.17028/rd.lboro.21820752). The document first outlines the responsibilities of Challenge Leads and Leads of specific studies being run (this is particularly important given the number of researchers involved in CEML). It specifies where the data are stored, who should have access to the data (working together with researchers from outside Loughborough University required some thinking of how to set this up efficiently), and when the data can be shared publicly. The document also specifies how to document the data entry process and how to document data analysis to ensure analytical reproducibility. We also specify the process of creating backups and data sharing.
To make these materials more accessible to CEML colleagues, we prepared a short video highlighting the most important aspects of the CEML data management and justifying why such detailed guidelines have been prepared (see CEML Data Management Training Video https://doi.org/10.17028/rd.lboro.21820713).
All these look quite elaborate and may not seem very useful for smaller projects. However, at least some of these points may be worth considering. It is worth remembering that “there will be at least two people working with your data, you and future you”. Thus, ensuring a consistent way of naming data files, their structure, variable names, the analysis code, and documenting the progress of data processing is a big favour to future you and, most likely, other researchers who may work with your data. Hopefully, the CEML documents linked may serve as a useful template on how to prepare a day-to-day data management reference for other projects.
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.
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.