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Open Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences: Two Working Groups 

This piece by Dr. Meg Westbury (Librarian, Haddon Library) and Dr. Matthias Ammon (Research Support Librarian, Germanic Languages & Film) introduces the work of the open research workings groups in the humanities and qualitative social sciences.

During 2021, two working groups of the Open Research Steering Committee formed to explore disciplinary perspectives on open research. One working group focuses on concerns and interests in open research from the perspective of researchers in the School of Arts and Humanities, and the other focuses on perspectives of researchers engaged in qualitative inquiry mainly from the School of the Humanities and Social Sciences. In this newsletter article, we describe the goals, activities and outputs of each working group. 

Open Research in the Humanities 

The working group on open research in the humanities formed in summer 2021 and is chaired by Dr Emma Gilby, with support from Dr Matthias Ammon. Four meetings were held in which the group discussed ways to make some of the underlying principles of open research – which have often been based on scholarly communication in STEMM subjects (as for example defined by the League of European Research Universities as the ‘8 Pillars of Open Science’) – more applicable to humanities research. This included meeting with academic publishers to discuss the future of scholarly communication in an Open Access landscape. The group is currently working on a report summarising the result of its discussions. 

Open Qualitative Research 

The working group on open qualitative research was formed in autumn 2021 and will have its first meeting in January 2022. The group is chaired by Dr Meg Westbury and has representatives from Criminology, Education, Geography, Social Anthropology, Sociology and the OSC. Over the next few months, the working group will consider how tenets of open research – such as open access, open data and research integrity – can be understood in terms of the ethics and priorities of qualitative researchers who seek to interpret and represent the complex lived experiences of social groups. By the end of the summer, the working group hopes to produce a report with recommendations for how open research might become more embedded in the research culture of qualitative researchers at Cambridge. 

In sum, we are optimistic that both working groups will be able to formulate recommendations for how open research might be understood, operationalised and/or reimagined for scholars across a wide-range of epistemologies and methodological approaches at the university

Open Research at Cambridge Conference – Opening session

The Open Research at Cambridge conference took place between 22–26 November 2021. In a series of talks, panel discussions and interactive Q&A sessions, researchers, publishers, and other stakeholders explored how Cambridge can make the most of the opportunities offered by open research. This blog is part of a series summarising each event. 

The opening session, chaired by Dr Jessica Gardner (University Librarian and Director of Library Services) included talks by Professor Anne Ferguson-Smith (Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research), Professor Steve Russell (Acting Head of Department of Genetics and Chair of Open Research Steering Committee), Mandy Hill (Managing Director of Academic Publishing at Cambridge University Press) and Dr Neal Spencer (Deputy Director for Collections and Research at the Fitzwilliam Museum). All four speakers foresee an increasingly open future, with benefits for both institutions and researchers. They also considered some of the challenges that still need to be worked through to avoid potential problems.

What is working well?

In recent years, we have made great progress in the proportion of publications that are open access. Over three quarters of publications with Cambridge authors last year were openly available in some form.

The trend is continuing and it is not unique to our institution. CUP have set an ambitious goal for the vast majority of research articles they publish to be open access by 2025.

Other forms of publication are becoming common, meeting different dissemination needs. Preprints have been the star of the show during the pandemic, allowing rapid dissemination while formal peer review follows down the line.

Diagram from Mandy Hill’s slide: ‘Increasingly open platforms and formal publishing will meet different dissemination needs’

In the scholarly communication arena, open access articles benefit from more downloads and citations. Museum-based projects involving artisans, schools and artists all found enthusiastic responses.

What can we look forward to?

Research culture is coming under the spotlight across the sector, and Cambridge has committed to an ambitious action plan to create a thriving environment to do research. Key principles include openness, collaboration, inclusivity, and fair recognition of all contributions.

Diagram from Prof Steve Russell: ‘Going Forward’

Implementing the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) is part of this progress. We want to assess research on its own merits rather than on the basis of journal or publisher metrics. This also means recognising all research outputs and a broad range of impacts.

Reproducibility is increasingly recognised as critical in a number of disciplines. A developing UKRN group within the University aims to ‘take nobody’s word for it’ – but rather support reproducible workflows that underpin confidence in the conclusions of research. By sharing and rewarding best practice we can become world leaders in this area, and in open research more widely.

In the past, museum collections have tended to be documented in limited ways, with poor accessibility and interoperability, which made it hard to discover and use materials. Several exciting projects at the Fitzwilliam Museum and more broadly have started to change that. There are opportunities for a single discovery portal, tying together different collections. The Fitzwilliam Museum is also making its collection discovery process richer, by providing opportunities for deeper dives, and more connected, by linking with other collections and resources.

Deep zoom access to an image in the Fitzwilliam collection. Adapted from Dr Neal Spencer’s slide ‘Fitzwilliam Museum Collections Search’.

What problems should we be mindful of?

There are still barriers that hinder some open research aspirations. Historical constraints on the ways we find materials, conduct research, and publish results remain. Some systems may need to be reimagined, while not scrapping structures that are still serving us well.

Cambridge is a large and complex institution, where change takes time. Nevertheless, there is an established governance structures and an evolving set of policies that support open research.

Most importantly, researchers should be at the centre of the move towards open research. It is important that they benefit from open practices, rather than finding themselves torn between competing priorities. Conversations continued throughout the week to explore possible approaches in different disciplines, drawing from the rich diversity of experiences to shape the future of open research at Cambridge.

Why publishing Open Access should be your first choice: The OA advantage

The Open Research at Cambridge conference took place between 22–26 November 2021. In a series of talks, panel discussions and interactive Q&A sessions, researchers, publishers, and other stakeholders explored how Cambridge can make the most of the opportunities offered by open research. This blog is part of a series summarising each event. 

In our recent “Why OA should be your first choice” webinar hosted by the Cambridge University Library, attendees heard just how advantageous it is to opt for Gold OA when publishing their research. Backed by data pulled from recent analytics, our guest speakers illustrated the advantages and innovation taking place a Cambridge University Press, while also dispelling  OA myths. Despite the challenges that apply to authors (such as funder requirements, national mandates, or differentials of income), there is a clear advantage of publishing open access.

As an non-profit Academic Publisher, we support the dissemination of knowledge and we strive to make OA equitable and sustainable to researchers across different career stages, disciplines, and regions worldwide.

The recording of the session is available here:

OA Advantages for Journal Authors
Mounting evidence of and OA advantage – across all disciplines, substantial in scale, material in respect to impact, prolonged over time” – Daniel Pearce, Publishing Director, HSS Journals.

  • A broader spectrum of authors are able to go OA due to transformative agreements (also known as Read & Publish)
  • Across our disciplines OA articles receive 3 times more usage within their first year than subscription articles. Gold OA articles receive more citations within two year across HSS and STM in contrast to non-OA articles.
  • Increase Impact: 61% more mentions on social, 185% more likely to be referenced in new media or blogs, and 52% more likely to be referenced in a policy papers

OA Advantages for Books & Elements Authors

Flip It Open permits researchers to have the opportunity to get OA and makes research publicly accessible” – Andri Johnston, Digital & OA Projects Editor

  • Within the first 12 months usage is exponentially higher for OA books and OA Elements since each chapter can be used, shared, and cited
  • Sharing increases exponentially when all the chapters of a book are OA and OA books usage is  11-66 times higher (depending on the discipline).
  • Our Flip It Open program flips standard monograph as soon as they reach a specific sales threshold. Revenue for the title is generated thru institutional sales
  • Downloads for OA Elements gradually grow after 3 months, whereas downloads for non-OA Elements pan out after 4 weeks. Plus, OA Elements usage is 3 time higher than their non-OA counterparts.
  • OA helps alleviate disparities of foreign currency exchange, differentials of income, intellectual exclusions and makes publicly funded research accessible

OA Myths
“Removing barriers allow research findings to go far beyond siloed departments of research communities, with just internet connection.” – Andrew Sykes, Journals Marketing Director

  • “There’s no benefit to me”. OA content is freely available online with increased discoverability and higher citation and downloads for your work.
  • “OA means low quality”. Quality for CUP is paramount importance. All OA articles and book submissions to Cambridge go through the same peer review publication process as non-OA submissions. Predator publishing can be found through the Think Check Submit website to verify validity of journal
  • “OA is too expensive to me”. CUP has a number of publishing agreements with  institutions, which means you may be able to submit your work OA without paying a fee. Cambridge also partners with Research4Life which enables researchers from low- medium income countries to publish as open access.

Learn more here: Open Access at Cambridge University Press