This is a guest post by Mithu Lucraft, TBI Communications
OASPA hosted an excellent discussion last week exploring how to normalise open research practice through grassroots community building.
Speakers highlighted the need for culture change, where open science and research practice is more visible and accessible.
Anita Eerland referred to the importance of policies in driving change among researchers, but noting that this doesn’t necessarily lead to adoption by itself. This also struck me reading through Plan S’s recently published analysis of the first year of Transformative Journals. Any new method or route to publish always requires a lot of education. In my old role at Springer Nature we looked at every stage of the researcher journey to ensure that we were embedding relevant information about TJ status throughout. And yet as we can see, even strong education combined with funder requirements isn’t enough when it comes to delivering behaviour change.
The OASPA webinar pointed to the importance of peer to peer education in driving cultural change among researchers. At the end of the day, the behaviour becomes the norm if researchers want to make the change themselves. One speaker, Caleb Kibet talked about the phases of changing, referring to the earliest of these as a sensitizing phase. I love this concept and it’s one I haven’t seen described as such elsewhere: It really brings to life that sense that we need to go beyond simply bringing open research into researcher pathways, instead taking them on a process of sensitization, repeated exposure, over a period of time. So the need is understood before you train the behaviours or expect a change in practice.
There was another critical takeaway for me from the webinar which speaks to a broader change in how we tackle education and normalise open research practice. Etienne Roesch referred to Nature’s finding that the majority of researchers think there is a reproducibility crisis. Yet he rightly pointed out that the focus may need to change: we need to shift the dialogue away from open research towards research best practice. There was some chatter from attendees about the term open scholarship as a less polarising term across research disciplines, but I’d argue that perhaps it’s time to widen our thinking to how we integrate new terminology into existing frameworks, rather than simply referring to open in new ways.
Taking a publisher’s perspective on this topic, it strikes me that terminology is a symptom of a larger problem, and education on open research needs to increasingly be dovetailed into what has always been our broader responsibility around research best practice. We often (in my experience) separate out ‘open’ as something standalone, in many mixed model businesses, in fact, it can be entirely siloed in the marketing communication we send, with little to no connection to wider research practice. As a marketer working on OA education, we need to reinforce that open is not the end goal. Open is a means to make research better, at the end of the day, so we need to switch gears and ensure our “why open” is clearly embedded into our wider research best practice toolkits. I suspect that the pure OA publishers can lead a charge here, with a chance to set their stall by focusing on research integrity and research best practice. For the others, the need to re-engage researchers with how publishers support good scholarship, and embedding open principles into this, could be a great opportunity to elevate OA and open research practice.
Mithu Lucraft is a Senior Consultant at TBI Communications