At the start of 2019 the University of Cambridge announced its Position Statement on Open Research. This blog looks at what has been happening since then and the current plans for making research at Cambridge more open.
In February 2019, the University of Cambridge set out its position on open research to support and encourage open practices throughout the research lifecycle for all research outputs. The Position Statement made clear that both the University and researchers have responsibility in this space and that there would be no one size fits all approach to how to be open. As part of forming a position on open research, the University also created the Open Research Steering Committee to oversee the open research agenda of the University. This Committee is currently looking at three key areas –training, infrastructure and Plan S.
In 2018, we ran a survey on open research [available to Cambridge University only] which highlighted our research community’s desire for more training on open research practices and tools. In order to delve into this further, a pilot was run with the Faculty of Education who submitted a disproportionately high number of responses to the survey, suggesting a strong interest in open research. The pilot, run earlier this year, encompassed six face-to-face training sessions on topics around open research, such as managing digital information, copyright, and publishing. These sessions were well received by both PhD students and postdocs.
In tandem to this, work is also being carried out to make the provision of open research related training more strategic, sustainable and efficient. For example, some of the courses the Office of Scholarly Communication run have already been embedded into existing PhD programmes, such as Doctoral Training Centres or the centrally run Researcher Development Programme but we could still increase the opportunities to work more closely with other parts of the University. With so many other pressures on time, it is essential we work together with all stakeholders involved to ensure we get the balance of training offered correct, so that we maximise the time benefits/costs of both the trainer and the student.
Finally, the question of sustainability for open research training is also being investigated. How can we ensure open research training reaches the 9,000 or so academics and postgraduate students we have at Cambridge? One answer to this question is online training. We are currently developing a digital course which will introduce the basics of open research, complementary to the soon-to-be-launched online research integrity training. However, we know that researchers value face-to-face sessions too, and intend to continue to develop our face-to-face offer, where we can provide deeper knowledge and discuss issues in more detail. Within the libraries at Cambridge we are also starting to work more closely with research support librarians and others in department libraries who can offer expertise and guidance that is tailored to the discipline.
The University Position Statement on Open Research says “University support is important to make Open Research simple, effective and appropriate” and a key part of that support is in the form of infrastructure. This is a complicated area because it involves a number of service providers at the University who all have different priorities as well as the large body of researchers, who have a huge variety of needs and technical abilities. Finding common solutions or tools will always be difficult in a large, research intensive institution like Cambridge, which has Schools spread across the spectrum of arts, humanities, social sciences and STEMM subjects.
The Open Research Steering Committee is made up of representatives from across the University both from different academic Schools and University services. This is key to ensure that the drive towards open research infrastructure is holistic and proportional in the context of other University agendas. A landscape review of the services already provided has been carried out as has a ‘wish list’ of IT infrastructure that researchers would like. Whilst the ‘wish list’ has been carried out in a context wider than open research, it is really heartening to see many ‘wishes’ relate to systems that would improve open research practices.
There is also work underway to look at how research notebooks (or electronic lab notebooks if you prefer) are being used across the University. A trial of notebooks run in 2017 resulted in the decision not to provide an institution-wide research notebook platform, but guidance instead. This new work under the auspices of the Open Research Steering Committee aims to build on this work by extending the guidelines to include principles around data security, data export and procurement.
Plan S looms large on our horizon and will present a challenge when it comes into force in 2021. Whilst we are waiting to see to what extent UKRI’s updated open access policy will reflect Plan S principles, we are busy contributing to the Transparent Pricing Working Group. This group was convened by the Wellcome Trust in partnership with UKRI and on behalf of cOAlition S to bring together publishers, funders and universities to develop a framework to guide publishers on how to communicate about the price of the services in a practical and transparent manner. The University is also looking into how we can implement the principles of DORA, which are supported by cOAlition S. This work is being led by Professor Steve Russell, an academic advocate for open research, and the work will very much be done in consultation with our academic community.
Cambridge is showing its commitment to enabling open research by taking seriously its role in providing infrastructure, training and the right culture for our academics. These areas need to be tackled holistically and the oversight of the Open Research Steering Committee should allow this to happen. It is important that we are collaborative with our research community and we hope that we have got that balance right with the inclusion of academics in the main Committee and working groups. Ensuring open research is embedded in everyday practice at the University will, of course, take time but we think we are making a good start.
Published 22nd October 2019
Written by Dr Lauren Cadwallader