The concept ofopen research has been rapidly gaining momentum over the last five to ten years. Awareness is higher in some disciplines than others, with a particularly strong emphasis on open research coming from Psychology. With the aim of being transparent through all stages of research, it has motivated researchers to build on existing literature and explore novel ideas. It opens the way for collaborations and makes knowledge more accessible and equitable to the general public.
To support this movement, the Surrey Reproducibility Society encourages researchers and students of all levels to meet (now virtually) to discuss issues revolving around open research and practicing open research to promote reproducible science. Some of the recently held talks and discussions included a talk from Dr. Priya Silverstein about Easing into open research with a particular focus on how to practice open research during the Covid-19 pandemic, and a discussion led by Dr. Christine Daoutis about What is stopping us from practicing open research. However, it is tricky to engage undergraduate students in these activities since the majority of them are unaware of it. As a current undergraduate placement student, my first impression of open research was ‘Why does this matter to me?’.
I was properly introduced to open research when I joined the CoGDeV lab and joined the Surrey Reproducibility Society. Previously, I was only aware of some common terminology used around open research which I picked up from various places, and it was only briefly touched upon in the undergraduate course. This is common: undergraduates rarely have a good understanding of what it is and why it can be important. The most frequently used term I heard was the ‘replication crisis’, however with the limited focus on research culture at an undergraduate level, it was unclear what exactly resulted in it and the statistics around it. A step towards minimizing the gap in Psychology undergraduate course is the introduction of teaching Open Research to second year students at Surrey from 2020/2021. Furthermore, many supervisors at Surrey now encourage their dissertation students to preregister their study outlining the design and a detailed analysis plan that can help them see their workplan.
With the undergraduate course packed with coursework, specifically research reports, it is expected for universities to have paid access to journals and repositories to provide students with the resources required. However, as some universities with fewer financial resources may not have paid access to many resources due to paywalls, it can be a struggle for some students to find the most suitable paper and to find that one perfect piece of research that helps them best understand the research field. An alternative to accessing journals is preprint repositories which are open access and allow accessing papers which haven’t necessary gone through peer review process or are undergoing the review process before being published in a journal. On the other hand, the number of open access journals are also increasing in number making it more accessible for students. Although this model has its own financial implications for the authors, funders and universities, with respect to article processing fees.
Thinking more broadly, as an aspiring researcher I see understanding the fundamentals of research practice in a holistic way. This enables ones to grasp differences between disciplines. While contributing to: , I was able to see how open research is applied in different disciplines and how they are applied in real life. Particularly for Psychology, with open research moving away from the notion of a good researcher being someone who publishes a large number of papers (with significant results) and moving towards the quality and rigor of research it can encourage researchers to focus on the research process rather than the end results.
Discussions around how ‘slow science’ can be beneficial in the long run and how ‘fast science’ (Frith, 2020) is currently recognized and practiced prompted me to engage more in open research. It made me think about how other undergraduate students can become aware and understand the importance of it. Lecturers and researchers who practice open research have the opportunity to advocate for it and spread awareness for an undergraduate cohort through teaching. Perhaps as an undergraduate student, you can propose the idea of including level-relevant information such as open access or open data in a research methods module mandatory at your university. This can be taught by someone who practices open research or recognisesopen research as being important. It can generate discussion within the class and help to start seeing open science as something that feeds into motivation and innovation. It can also encourage students to have conversations around open research in an informal or formal environment which can undoubtedly get the gears moving and prove beneficial in the long term. However, at the end of the day, it all boils down to how the information is utilized. With the slow growth of a supportive open research practice, the publication culture may get overshadowed to pave way for transparency in research and inspire others to adapt it.
Farran, E. K., Silverstein, P., Ameen, A. A., Misheva, I., & Gilmore, C. (2020). Open Research: Examples of good practice, and resources across disciplines.
Frith, U. (2020). Fast lane to slow science. Trends in cognitive sciences, 24(1), 1-2.
Kathawalla, U. K., Silverstein, P., & Syed, M. (2020). Easing Into Open Science: A Tutorial for Graduate Students.
Written by Aminath Aan Ameen