Moving Open Science forward at the institutional/departmental level

Authors: Esther Plomp, Emmy Tsang, Emma Henderson and Delwen Franzen

This blogpost summarises a discussion session held during the AIMOS2021 conference (1 Dec – 08:30-9:30 AM UTC). During the discussion, we focused on what our institutes and departments could do to improve the awareness of Open Science practices and support the change towards a more open research culture. We started our session with some of the questions that the participants were currently struggling with, and some of our (not so) success stories: 

  • The Delft University of Technology (the Netherlands) already has a lot of policies and support roles in place that support Open Science practices. There is the Open Science Programme with a dedicated Community Manager that also supports the building and growth of the TU Delft Open Science Community. At the Faculty level, Data Stewards provide support for research data and software management and sharing. Thanks to these Data Stewards, the faculties each have their own Data Management policy.
  • The Flinders University (Adelaide, Australia) is working on policy changes and has an Open Science training in place.
  • The BIH QUEST Center (Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany) has developed a pilot dashboard that provides an up-to-date overview of several metrics of open and responsible research at the Charité. 

Having dedicated roles or policies for Open Science and Data Management is crucial to drive effective change in research practises, but not every institute has these resources. While the uptake of Open Science practises in the last five to ten years has increased, there is also still a lot of frustration at the local level. Not everyone has the time to pay attention to or is enthusiastic about Open Science developments, and participants indicated that some principal investigators did not care about replicability in research. If bachelor/master students are following training on open research practices, they are equipped to take this aspect into account when selecting a supervisor for their PhD research (see also Emily Sena’s contributions in the AIMOS 2021 Panel Discussion on “How to start a revolution in your discipline”). While some institutions offer Open Science training, sometimes the uptake is low. During the session we struggled with some of these obstacles and discussed the following four questions in more detail: 

How can you make the case for hiring professionals that support Open Science practices? 

It helps if other institutes have examples of professional support roles, especially if there is visible impact in the uptake of Open Science practices. A great example of this is the UK Reproducibility Network (UKRN). The UKRN is actively involved in supporting institutions in setting up roles that focus on increasing reproducibility of research, by connecting stakeholders to share best practices and by providing expert advice. 

To build the case for the institution to prioritise investment in Open Science, it is often helpful to illustrate to institutional leadership the effects of (inter)national funders’ commitments to Open Science. Funder mandates on data management planning and sharing are now commonplace (for example, the European Commission, NWO, NIH) and are directly impacting the institution’s researchers. 

It was also noted that support from institutional/faculty leadership alone was often not sufficient: the establishment for these roles should also be driven by the needs of the researchers. Ideally, there is alignment in these bottom-up needs and top-down strategic decisions. 

How do you set up an Open Science policy at your institute? 

To set up an Open Science policy, you may be more successful if you tackle the variety of different aspects of Open Science separately. Open Science is a very broad concept and it may be complicated to address Open Access, Data, Software, Education, Engagement in a single policy. 

Stakeholder engagement is essential when setting up a policy. You should make sure that the policy represents various interests at your institution. Stakeholder mapping is a helpful exercise that could help one understand who to talk to, how and at what stage of policy development. While it may take time to actively engage all of your stakeholders, in the end your policy will be more practically applicable and supported. At the same time, it is also an opportunity to engage in conversation with your stakeholders with this topic, as an upcoming policy that would affect them creates a sense of urgency. It is helpful to run your policy past procedural check points (such as Human Research Ethics committees). 

How do we incentivise/reward researchers practising Open Science?

One way to incentivise researchers to practise Open Science is setting up Awards: 

While it is important to recognise the efforts of individual researchers in practising Open Science, there are discussions on whether incentivising them with awards is the best approach (see Lizzie Gadd’s post ‘How (not) to incentivise open research’ and Anton Akhmerov’s Twitter thread). 

How do you get more people onboard in practising Open Science?

In order to gain more support for Open Science practices, it helps if there are practical examples. It is not always clear from hypothetical or abstract statements what can be done on a daily basis to make research practices more open. 

It was noted that it is easier to start at the beginning of the research career with learning about open research practises, for example, during undergraduate or early graduate school training. Once the students have gained more knowledge, they can also demonstrate to their supervisors that these practices are beneficial. However, it cannot just be up to PhD candidates to drive these changes as they are in a hierarchical relationship with their supervisors. Supervisors should also receive training and support to adjust their practices.

Contributions

This blogpost is written based on contributions by the session participants: Peter Neish (The University of Melbourne, @peterneish), Delwen Franzen (BIH QUEST Center for Responsible Research, @DelwenFranzen), Jen Beaudry (Flinders University, @drjbeaudry), Emma Henderson (University of Surrey, @EmmaHendersonRR), Fiona Fidler (University of Melbourne, @fidlerfm), Nora Vilami and Pranali Patil.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s