Dr Paul Ayris, UCL Pro Vice Provost and Director of Library Services, explains UCL's position on supporting Open Science and research transparency in the context of Covid-19.
Taking the Open road – A Statement of Intent
Life will never be the same again. The 2020 coronavirus pandemic will change everything. Universities, research funders and research organizations are all working at speed to help tackle the current crisis, and to identify trusted and expert research solutions to the challenges which face society.
The Ebola crisis of 2014-16 offers a stark warning for what can happen under the current ‘closed’ system of undertaking research and publishing results. At the launch of the Sorbonne Declaration on research data management, Dr Simon Hodson Executive Director of CODATA pointed out that 65% of the data produced regarding the ebola crisis was not shared, nor made available. Most of this data cannot be accessed directly at the record level. There is a lack of metadata (descriptive data about data) which allows research data to be discovered, aggregated and integrated. Such an approach to research is disastrous, since it makes sharing, collaboration, or the pooling of resources impossible.
Open Science/Open Scholarship is clearly the way forward. As Brian Nosek, Director of the Center for Open Science, says: "We can be more open, more reproducible, more agile, more inclusive in the scientific process". In 2020, as we face the coronavirus pandemic, the same arguments to support openness, transparency, collaboration, and sharing are valid. This is a wakeup call to the global research community finally to adopt Open Science/Open Scholarship as a set of principles and values which should guide all future activity.
Open Access to publications is now a well-developed phenomenon for research outputs. In Europe, this move has been driven both by research funders and by researchers themselves. Plan S is a bold move by research funders to move to a 100% Open Access world for published outputs, with immediate access to the finished results. Other stakeholders, such as the Wellcome Trust and UCL, have established Open Access publishing platforms to transform the publishing landscape, with innovative models for immediate access to pre-prints and peer review.
Universities, research funders and policy makers are rising to the challenge. Universities are developing research data repositories which are Open, where the research data can be accessed, shared and re-used. Individual universities such as UCL have already established such repositories. Furthermore on 20 April 2020, the EC launched a European COVID-19 Data Platform to enable the rapid collection and sharing of available research data. The development of platforms like this directly addresses the failures in data sharing identified in the ebola crisis. Sharing data can open up new avenues of research and enquiry without researchers having to recreate and collect identical data. The discoverability of Open data aids retrieval, and new partnerships between research teams can result. One of the most tangible results of such Open Science approaches is the impetus it gives to collaborations to deliver benefits to Society as a whole.
A recent development in attempting to embed Open Science practice into the research landscape is the UK Reproducibility Network (UKRN). This is a peer-led consortium that aims to ensure that the UK retains its place as a centre for world-leading research. It will do this by investigating the factors that contribute to robust research, providing training and disseminating best practice, and working with stakeholders to ensure coordination of efforts across the sector. Central to the values embraced by the UKRN is research transparency, the immediate availability of research outputs to the global research community, alignment with DORA principles for the evaluation of research outputs, the importance of making publications, research data and software available for sharing and re-use.
Open Science/Open Scholarship provides a set of principles and suggestions for practice which will transform the research landscape across the world to the benefit of Society as a whole. For this to work, all players in the research landscape need to embrace Open Science principles and practice to create a new research landscape built on Openness, transparency, sharing and collaboration. The time to act is now.
Dr Paul Ayris, FRHistS
Pro-Vice-Provost, UCL Library Services
UKRI consultation on its Open Access policy
UKRI is currently consulting on its proposed open access policy for peer-reviewed research articles and academic books that result from research supported by UKRI. This is an opportunity to align policy across UKRI's councils, including the Research Councils, Research England and Innovate UK. UKRI is working with the UK Higher Education Funding Bodies to help inform the open access policy for REF after REF 2021. More information is available here.
Read more about Open Access and Open Science on the Library Services website.