2022 has been another fantastic year for Open Research in Cambridge and I’m so proud of what we have achieved together as a community of researchers, library staff, technicians, administrators, publishers and more. I’d like to highlight some of the key themes in our work this year and thank all who have contributed to this work in any way throughout the year (though I have limited myself to naming chairs of workstrands below). The following video by our Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research), Prof Anne Ferguson-Smith, gives an indication of the importance that the university places on this work.
Understanding disciplinary differences
I know that I’m not alone in hearing that researchers in Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences disciplines often feel a disconnect between the language and priorities of “Open Science” and their experiences of how research is conducted – this is one of the reasons we choose to frame it as “Open Research” here in Cambridge. I see a strong desire from many to engage with open research practices, paired with frustration with the challenges of translating the terminology of open science to other areas. In order to better understand these issues, we established two working groups (Open Research in the Humanities and Open Qualitative Research), each of which was tasked with forgetting what they think they should do due to how open science is generally described, and instead describe what they see as the opportunities for open research within their disciplines.
The Open Research in the Humanities group was chaired by Prof Emma Gilby and supported by Dr Matthias Ammon. Their excellent report is already available on Apollo and through a series of blog posts here on Unlocking Research. The Open Qualitative Research group was chaired by Dr Meg Westbury and their report is due to come to the university’s Open Research Steering Committee in January. We will be sharing this more widely in early 2023 – it’s well worth watching out for! Both reports will inform how we talk about Open Research at Cambridge and will shape the transformative programme that we are in the process of developing.
Research data management
Our small but dedicated Research Data team, led by Dr Sacha Jones, has had another impressive year. Our Data Champions Network goes from strength to strength, and has expanded into departments that have not been represented in previous years. Other key projects have included a review of our research data services with recommendations for future development, a project on electronic research notebooks, and lots of work to support open research system developments, all while continuing to support researchers with data deposits and writing data management plans. This team is expanding next year which will enable even more work to meet the needs of different disciplines.
The future of scholarly publishing
We hosted a series of three strategic workshops on the future of scholarly communication earlier this year, developed in collaboration between Cambridge University Libraries and Cambridge University Press. Led by independent facilitator Mark Allin, participants across disciplines and career stages came together to discuss the problems of scholarly communication, potential long-term solutions to these problems and a strategy to help Cambridge get us there. The proposals emerging from the meeting are currently being developed and include newly developed infrastructures for diamond open access publishing projects and a series of high-level strategic meetings aimed at strategic improvements to equity in academic publishing. There are already diamond publishing initiatives within Cambridge, and projects will start in early 2023 to understand existing initiatives in greater detail and to provide the infrastructure to establish additional diamond journals.
The library’s annual Open Research Conference took a similar visionary approach in its focus on the future of open access. Titled Open Access: Where Next?, the conference featured expert speakers on how we can think beyond open access toward more innovative, sustainable and equitable open futures. We heard from researchers excluded by certain approaches to open access, how other researchers are addressing issues through their own scholar-led approaches, alongside how openness fits into changing research cultures and can facilitate experimental publishing projects. A full round up with videos of each session is available on the Unlocking Research blog. My thanks to Dr Bea Gini for her leadership in planning this conference.
Open Access now
While we are actively working towards a new future for scholarly publishing, we also need to ensure that our researchers have ways to make their work open access right now. We do this in a number of ways, engaging with the academic community and contributing expert open access advice on publishing agreements that are negotiating across the sector and administering the block grants that are provided by funders and the university to cover the costs of publishing in fully open access venues. All of this requires close reading and interpretation of funder requirements to ensure that we are able to support our researchers in what they are required to as well as what they would like to do. I’d like to specifically thank Alexia Sutton, who leads our Open Access team, and Dr Samuel Moore, our Scholarly Communication Specialist, for their leadership in this area.
We are particularly pleased with the engagement from across the university with the ongoing Rights Retention Pilot, which provides a route to open access for articles that cannot be made immediately available through existing publishing deals, are not eligible for the block grants mentioned above or where the publisher simply does not provide any route to immediate open access. We are now consulting on the development of a Self-Archiving Policy which is buit on what we have learned throught he pilot and will sit within our Open Access Publications Policy Framework. Members of the university can find out more by reading this document (accessible to Raven users only). It has been an honour to lead a dedicated group of library and research staff on this project.
Open research systems
Everything we do requires that we have the right technical infrastructure in place. The Open Research Systems team is led by Dr Agustina Martinez-Garcia and based within Cambridge University Libraries’ Digital Initiatives directorate. This year has seen projects to upgrade links between Symplectic Elements and Apollo, technical changes to support the rights retention pilot, a review of the open research systems landscape, contributing to thinking around future publishing platforms, electronic research notebooks and data infrastructure, and planning ahead for the upgrade to DSpace 7, improvements in the thesis service, and building connections between DSpace repositories and Octopus. This is not a comprehensive list and we plan to showcase more of their work on the blog in 2023.
Research enquiries, briefings and training
I want to end with huge thanks to the library staff based both in the Office of Scholarly Communication and in the Faculty & Department Libraries who do so much throughout the year, answering frontline research support queries, signposting as required, providing tailored briefings and training on highly complex and constantly changing topics. We especially value the disciplinary insights we get through working closely with the Research Support Librarians that are based within the Schools.
Join our team!
Open Research is an incredibly rewarding area to work in and the scale of what we’re trying to achieve is really ambitious. I’m delighted that the importance of what we are doing is recognised by both Cambridge University Libraries and the wider university and as a result we are expanding our team!
We are currently recruiting for an Open Research Community Manager to establish and develop a Cambridge Open Research Community, bringing researchers across the university community together through regular online and in person events to enable exchange of expertise in open and rigorous research practices. In January, we plan to advertise for two Research Data Coordinators and an Open Research Administrator, with a Research Services Manager post following later in the year. All of these roles will be listed on the university’s jobs site as well as on LinkedIn, mailing lists etc. If you’re interested in our work and would like to find out more about these opportunities please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org!