Posted by Charlie, December 2016

How do we encourage the doubtful to try Open Research?

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On 24/11/2016 the Moore Library at the University of Cambridge hosted the OpenCon2016 Cambridge satellite event - OpenConCam. This was a one-day event that brought together a wide spectrum of 'Open' enthusiasts - people who are interested in and passionate about open access, open data and open education. It was a fantastic event packed with interesting talks and thought-provoking discussions.

One part of the day, however, stood out to me as an insightful learning experience. This was the Focus group session, which involved the attendees splitting off into small groups and discussing a topic of interest and then feeding-back our 'findings' to the rest of the attendees. The group I chose to join was discussing the question: "How do we encourage the doubtful to try Open Research?"

Why did I choose this topic?

At Repositive, we are strong advocates of the Open Science movement and as part of our platfrom we are always encouraging our users to become part of the community, to share knowledge and data. Therefore, I felt this would be an opportunity for me to learn from others:

  1. Why people are doubtful about Open Research in the first place.
  2. What activities are known to encourage the doubtful.
  3. Any other ideas they might have about encouraging people to partake in Open Research.

Summary of discussion

Time is a massive issue - people just don't have time to do all the things necessary to make their research open.

Training is needed as many people lack the skills to be able to make their research open. As the individual giving the training, however, you also need to get people interested in training. You can't expect people to come to you, you need to go to them.

Incentives are needed to encourage people at any stage of their career, and these incentives need to be personal. Researchers at different stages of their career have different motivations and therefore different incentives will drive them to make their research open.

Evidence - the people we are trying to encourage are driven by evidence, so we need evidence to prove that making ones research open can have a positive impact on their research and career. We need to start documenting the benefits of making research open and we need to have lots of 'success stories'

These two publications, about The Impact of Open Access and How open science helps researchers succeed, are great examples of documenting the benefits of making research open.

Inform researchers about the laws around making research open. Many researchers do not know about embargo and other key legal aspects that can help them make their research open without them risking losing control over their data or intellectual property. People don't know the laws around sharing data and are scared to 'get it wrong' so they just don't do it.

Train people in how to cite data effectively so everyone gets credit where credit is due.

Five take home messages

  1. Train people - but remember we need to get people interested in the training.
  2. Give personal incentives to encourage people to get involved in open research. It's really hard!
  3. Be aware of the differences in your audience - people are motivated by different things at different stages of their career.
  4. Get increased monitoring from funders - petition funding bodies to work harder to encourage people to get involved.
  5. Integrate systems, such as open access journals and repositories, to make open research one click easy!


The Open Access button slogan

In conclusion

Why people are doubtful:

  • Don't know how to open their research
  • Lack the skills to make their research open
  • Don't have time; it's too complicated
  • Fear misuse of their data
  • Fear losing control of their data
  • Don't know if they are 'allowed' to make their research open

For more reasons: see slide 16 from this presentation by Danny Kingsley.

What we can do:

  • Make it easy
  • Educate people
  • Encourage/incentivise
  • Integrate tools
  • Record success stories
  • Show how it increases impact

I enjoyed this experiance hugely and I felt I really learnt something. As a group, we may have come one tiny step closer to understanding how we might help the doubtful try open research.


I want to thank the following people for getting involved in this discussion: Clair Castle, Matthias Ammon, Peter Sutton Long, Claire Sewell, Mark Dunning, Adam Kilmont & Ben Webb.

I also want to thank Laurent Gatto for organising the Focus Group session and pointing me towards the results of the discussion (can be found here), and the rest of the OpenConCam organising committee for a really great event.

Posted by
Charlie Whicher

Charlie Whicher

Product Manager
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