Why Open Research?

One of the most frequent moans from researchers about why they don’t like open access, open data, open science (etc.), is that they value their careers over being open. I have no idea where this false dichotomy came from, or how it appears to have become so embedded in the minds of early career researchers, along with a frequent perception of callousness or nonchalance towards transparency in research.

Thankfully, a new site has been launched by open science superstar, Erin McKiernan, called Why Open Research? It highlights why practising ‘openness’ as a researcher is good for selfish reasons, as well as those for the greater public good.


Key points include:

  1. You can publish wherever you want, and still commit to open access. There are cheap publishing options, fee waivers, and self-archiving options all available.
  2. Open research and a commitment to transparency are becomingly increasingly recognised as important in all steps in academic career pathways.
  3. Learn what your funder says about open access. Many have special funds to support you.
  4. Take back control as an author! Know your rights!
  5. Open increases your visibility as a researcher, and the re-use of your work (which is why we all publish in the first place, right..?)

It’s really worth checking out, and some of the artwork is just hilarious too..


On this final point, Erin and a range of awesome colleagues have published what I hope will become a strong foundation for open access advocacy and education. I don’t often say ‘all researchers should read this’, but all researchers should read this. It’s a new paper called “The open research value proposition: How sharing can help researchers succeed“, and published online via Figshare.

Contrary to what I hear a lot of the time, it draws parallels between openness, transparency and sharing in science (also called “science”) with academic success. This is important, as it combats a lot of the fear, uncertainty, and doubt, especially among early career researchers, about how being open will compromise their research careers.

Here’s the abstract:

Open access, open data, open source, and other open scholarship practices are growing in necessity and popularity, rapidly becoming part of the integral workflow of researchers. However, widespread adoption of many of these practices has not yet been achieved. Understandably, researchers have concerns as to how sharing their work will affect their careers. Some of these concerns stem from a lack of awareness about the career benefits associated with open research. Herein, we review literature on the open citation advantage, media attention for publicly available research, collaborative possibilities, and special funding opportunities to show how open practices can give researchers a competitive advantage.

And the summary:

“The evidence that openly sharing articles, code, and data is beneficial for researchers is strong and building. Each year, more studies are published showing the open citation advantage; more funders announce policies encouraging, mandating, or specifically financing open research; and more employers are recognizing open practices in academic evaluations. In addition, a growing number of tools are making the process of sharing research outputs easier, faster, and more cost-effective. In his 2012 book Open Access [7], Peter Suber summed it up best: “[OA] increases a work’s visibility, retrievability, audience, usage, and citations, which all convert to career building. For publishing scholars, it would be a bargain even if it were costly, difficult, and time-consuming. But…it’s not costly, not difficult, and not time-consuming.” (pg. 16)

That final point for me is key. Being open is actually easier than it is to be ‘closed’. Sharing is a fundamental aspect of science, and researchers need to endeavour to make sure that they do everything within their power and knowledge to be as open and transparent as possible. Anything else isn’t really research, it’s just anecdote.

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About protohedgehog

Palaeontologist, just completed a PhD at Imperial College environmental drivers of biodiversity and extinction through geological time. Passionate about science communication and opening up the research process. Tweets vigorously as @protohedgehog. Freelance science writer and consultant, and author of kids book Excavate Dinosaurs.

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