What is open research?

Since the early 1990s, the open access movement has promoted the concept of greater openness in relation to scientific research. It's about making research more transparent, collaborative and efficient. There are several aspects to this international drive.

Examples given below are intended as a starting point for developing your knowledge as an open researcher, they do not represent a comprehensive list of resources.

Open Access

Open data

Open platforms, tools and services

An open approach to conducting research

Transparency and public engagement

Open access…

…is usually used to mean the worldwide movement to make scholarly publications available online to everyone regardless of their ability to pay for access. Publications can include articles in academic journals (whether peer-reviewed or not), conference papers, theses, book chapters or monographs. It’s about making research results transparent and available to build on.

Open access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. Peter Suber, director of the Harvard Office for Scholarly Communication and the Harvard Open Access Project

Without open access, the outputs of research conducted using public money may not be available to that public through restrictions of price, copyright, and other barriers. Funding bodies and other policy-making organisations are increasingly proactive in ensuring that publically funded research is not hidden behind publication pay-walls and are implementing policies to that effect. Of course somebody has to cover the costs of providing open publications. There is more than one model for this.

A great deal is written about open access, but here are just a few related links that you might find useful:

Open data…

…is about making raw data from research quickly available to anyone so that they can interrogate and re-use it.

Realising the benefits of open data requires effective communication through a more intelligent openness. From Science as an open enterprise: the Royal Society

Open sharing of data is often appropriate and can be especially beneficial in some areas of research (e.g. the sharing of clinical data which could lead to public impact). On the other hand there may be legitimate reasons for keeping data closed.

Protecting Intellectual Property (IP) rights over data are still vital in many sectors, and legitimate reasons for keeping data closed must be respected. From Science as an open enterprise: the Royal Society

A few related links:

Open platforms, tools and services…

… are also part of the open research movement. This can include opening access to code and software, scientific equipment or instructions for building it, plus any other tools or services that can promote efficiency in research. Scientists have always shared detailed information on the methods they employ in their research. This is taking the same principle further, because now that’s possible.

Some examples of projects operating in this area:

An open approach to conducting research…

…includes taking an openly collaborative approach. This can encompass fostering relationships with and working alongside other researchers, often from other disciplines, taking new approaches such as openly posing research questions online and involving the public in the actual process of research, e.g. citizen science.

Related links:

  • Collaborative Science: web section about collaborative research, interdisciplinary teams, the benefits and potential challenges for researchers plus how to do it well. From Columbia University
  • A well-known example of online collaboration to beat unsolved maths problems is the Polymath Project started by Tim Gowers
  • The great potential of citizen science. Blog post by Benedikt Fecher looking at the second spring of citizen science
  • The Citizen Science Alliance joins scientists, software developers and educators in collaborations to develop, manage and use citizen science projects to further science and the public understanding of science and the scientific process. The related site Zooniverse is for potential citizen scientists
  • Call for participants is another advertising platform for academics to recruit study participants.

Transparency and public engagement…

…is an important aspect of open research and one that is now often a requirement of research funders. It’s about ensuring that the public, often the ultimate funder of research themselves, is made aware of research outputs in a way that they can understand and also knows how to access research outputs and make use of them.

Some related links: