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Today we have a guest blog from Ka-Ming Pang, Academic Engagement Librarian (Computer Science and Engineering) at the University of Westminster. Ka-Ming highlights some key tips and takeaways from an event run in collaboration with the Sustainable Cities and the Urban Environnment Research Community on “Becoming an Open Researcher”.

In the two decades since the Budapest Open Access Initiative declaration in February 2002, the idea and practice of Open Access has become firmly embedded into the scholarly communications process and enabled more research outputs to be more readily access to researchers and anyone with interest in research. From our own institutional repository WestminsterResearch alone, we had 286,797 downloads between May 2021 and April 2022, a small indicator of the demand for openly accessible research content. 

The landscape has not remained static, and researchers paying attention to the requirements of the big funders of research such as UKRI will have seen the shift in attitudes and policies towards making more research open and available more quickly (see the RKEO update on UKRIs Open Access Policy). Research communities and universities are also widening the picture and framing this work within the broader context of Open Research. The RKEO (Research and Knowledge Exchange Office) have updated the university webpages to share our new commitments to Open Research and it shares our description of what Open Research means. The University of Westminster’s renewed commitment to advocate for Open Research is a part of the wave of changes in the landscape.

Open Research (or, Open Science) looks different for each discipline, but it extends the principle of open access to research publications and research data to all aspects, methods, and products of the research lifecycle. Open Research improves the transparency, integrity, robustness, reproducibility, and reach of scholarly research. 

In July we ran a session on Open Research to share the context and the vision, and we subtitled the session “Becoming an Open Researcher”. 

Being an Open Researcher goes beyond simply making your research outputs, journal articles, book chapters, or videos openly available. There is a great statement from University of Reading which really gets to the heart of this:

Open Research is good for you: open practices will improve the quality and integrity of your research, and open communication of outputs will maximise their potential to generate value – for yourself, as well as for others. Being an open researcher involves learning new ways of doing things, and may challenge some assumptions and established customs. But the rewards can repay the effort.” 

(Read more: 12 things you can do to make your research more open)

So how do you become an Open Researcher? 

Consider where you are publishing 

When you are publishing, do you know what rights you have retained for your own works? Have you chosen the correct CC-BY license?  Have you explored the publishing deals that are on offer? 

Being an Open Access researcher may be about exploring new avenues for publishing:  

Our very own University of Westminster Press is a diamond open access press, meaning there are no charges to the author or the reader, and we have seen an increase in the number of University’s exploring and launching their own university presses in recent years. 

Manage your research data, and plan for openness 

Research data does not just mean quantitative data, but depending on your subject area, this could mean photographs, ceramic glaze recipes, videos, 3D models, reading notes and more. Making your data open gives researchers more context for your findings, and can enable future researchers to build on your work. Open data enables reviewers and researchers to appraise both the material and the conclusions of research publications. However, the metadata around the research data is very important to get right, for future researchers to make sense of your work. This is why it’s important to have a data management plan. The RKEO blog also gives advice on how to publish your data, license your data for reuse and share it responsibly

Publish and share your research methods 

There are some funders who require researchers to demonstrate open research practices. The benefit of sharing your research methods is that it will increase the quality of research by improving the robustness through ‘reproducibility’.  The RKEO webpages on Open Research Methods gives more guidance on how to do this. 

Work ethically with participants

There are additional considerations to being open for researchers in arts and humanities who may make heavy use of audiovisual content and work with participants. It is difficult to go back to ask for permissions to use visual research data such as photographs, or make interviews accessible; and some participants may not realise how ‘open’ the content will be, based on their own perceptions on the potential reach of the research. These factors should be addressed at the very start when putting together the research proposal in a research ethics application and data management plan. You should think about how you will make your participants aware of where and how the research will be published, how you will ensure that media consent forms have been given and signed by participants, and where and how the research will be accessed. 

The Open Researcher

At the end of the session, attendees were asked what they thought being an Open Researcher meant. Here are some of the responses 

  • Embracing wider society 
  • Speedier publishing 
  • Ethical 
  • Opportunity 
  • Transparent 
  • Accountable  
  • Intellectually open 
  • Free of charge 
  • Advocating for change 
  • Doing things differently 

We were excited to see the support for a more open research culture and we hope that the session highlighted the support that was available within the university to support this. 

The slides and recordings for the session can be found on RKEO Communications Sharepoint page, (login required). 

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