Open Research for a week (and longer), at Bristol (and elsewhere!)

By Neil Jacobs, Head of UK Reproducibility Network Open Research Programme

Perhaps understandably, a lot of attention has been given to the initial decisions about REF2028 and, in particular, to the direction taken on People, Culture and Environment. “Open research” features strongly here; not only Open Access publishing, but transparency in a much deeper and wider sense (perhaps following last year’s UNESCO Open Science Recommendation, which the UK has signed). This will challenge governments, funders and universities to demonstrate real progress.

In response Bristol has partnered with the universities of Reading and Zurich, the UK Reproducibility Network (UKRN), and UNESCO to produce a guide to help institutions implement the Recommendation, which will be released during Open Research Week (20-24 November). In fact, that will be a busy week! The GW4 Alliance has arranged events to help researchers more easily adopt open research practices, and this complements the UKRN’s Open Research Programme (that Bristol leads), which is also stepping up its activities. Those will run to August 2027.

Training is a key foundation for open research. The UKRN Open Research Programme has just released a schedule of train-the-trainer opportunities, covering topics as diverse as open software / code, research collaboration, open research and ethics, and embedding open research in undergraduate practice. There will be more information about these opportunities soon. In the meantime, Open Research Week sees an introduction to open research (see also UKRN’s resources for different disciplines), and events on both open source hardware (see also UKRN primer) and rights retention (see also UKRN primer).

Trainers (both formal and informal) will learn from each other in local and disciplinary communities. The UKRN Programme is launching a national trainer community of practice, and Open Research Week sees several GW4/Bristol events on sharing research data (introductory, sensitive data, qualitative data, life science data) that will strengthen communities here at Bristol that can promote training in open research.

However, training is not enough. Unless researchers feel that being open will help their career, then they may not want to invest their time.

The UKRN Programme is working with a group of over 20 UK universities to reform the way they recruit, promote and appraise staff, to recognise open research practices. Bristol is one of those universities, and there is an event in Open Research Week on making research assessments fairer, as a part of this. UKRN is also working with major international initiatives, such as CoARA and the OPUS Project, to make sure the UK and other countries are coordinated.

But how will Bristol and UKRN institutions more generally monitor progress and see the benefits of open research? One part of this is the digital plumbing. To monitor, we need reliable data, and that means using things like ORCIDs and Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) – Persistent Identifiers for people, projects, universities, funders, research papers and so on. You can learn more about these during Open Research Week. They will be at the heart of UKRN’s work with around 15 universities, including Bristol, to develop and pilot some indicators of open research in 2024.

One of the things that universities can do to support their research community in the move to open research is to have the best possible policy, that sets out our aspirations, and the expectations that we can have of each other in meeting those aspirations. Bristol’s draft policy will be released for consultation during Open Research Week. It has been informed by policies elsewhere and by discussions with other universities, enabled by the UKRN ethos of collaboration rather than competition to promote better research.

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