Eastern Arc statement on open research

Eastern Arc was established to ‘respond creatively and effectively to key drivers that are changing the landscape of research and research training in universities.’ Our current Strategy 2020-25 sets out how we will do this, through three objectives: to collaborate, to innovate, and to advocate.

Open Research (OR) is an important feature of the contemporary and future research landscape, and is a mechanism and driver for change and digital transformation in research, and is central to effectively tackling the crisis around research reproducibility and replicability.

What is OR? 

Open research is a broad term that includes a number of related principles. Vitae describes these as: 

  • Open access: to make the outputs of research free at the point of access. Outputs can include articles in academic journals, conference papers, theses, book chapters and monographs.
  • Open data: to make the raw data underlying research openly available.
  • Open platforms, tools and services: to make available code and software, scientific equipment or instructions for building it, and any other tools or services that can promote efficiency in research. 
  • An open approach to conducting research: to develop and encourage open collaborative research, including working with those outside of traditional disciplines or even academia, such as through ‘citizen science’. 
  • Transparency and public engagement: to make the public aware of research outputs in a way that they can understand and also knows how to access research outputs and make use of them.

What are the Eastern Arc institutions doing in support of OR? 

OR requires a fundamental shift in research culture. The Eastern Arc institutions recognise that enabling that shift is a long-term process, and both systems and behaviours take time to change. 

However, each EARC institution is taking significant steps to expedite this.

  • The University of East Anglia is committed to ensuring that the outputs of its work are freely accessible so that the potential for academic, economic, scientific, social and cultural impact can be maximised.
  • The University of Essex encourages research outputs and accompanying data to be made ‘as open as possible, as closed as necessary’. Furthermore, it expects its researchers to be open with other researchers and the public regarding their work and promote the open exchange of ideas and information, including making underlying data relating to publications openly available where possible, and using collaborative approaches where appropriate. The University is also taking part in a Europe-wide project ‘to make open science the new normal’ through the YUFE consortium. 
  • The University of Kent supports the principle of open access scholarship and works with publishers, funders and the HE community to do so, providing systems, tools and guidance to make it as easy as possible for academics, students and researchers to make their work openly available. 

What is Eastern Arc doing to support OR? 

Eastern Arc is a consortium of equals, and provides a forum for the sharing of best practice, the development of collective resources, and the encouragement of joint working in addressing common issues. 

In supporting the development of OR practices and advocacy, Eastern Arc has developed two bodies: 

  • An Open Access and Scholarly Communications Group. This comprises colleagues from professional services who have a responsibility for overseeing issues around academic publishing. This includes curation of resources and management of repositories, subscriptions to journals and engagement with publishers, as well as training, advice and advocacy for academics, researchers and students. 
  • The Open Research Eastern Arc (OREA) Network. This comprises both academics, researchers and professional services colleagues to advocate on behalf of OR, and provide the training, skills, knowledge and insight that will foster and embed OR in academic practice across the Consortium. 

The work of these bodies has led to the development of shared resources and open events at each university. These include: 

  • An accessible and freely available booklet addressing 12 key concerns that academics may have with open access. 
  • A position paper on reproducibility and research integrity. Open research, and in particular the sharing of underlying data, is essential for addressing the situation in which scientists are unable to reproduce the results of other scientists’ experiments. The EARC paper sets out the background, the issues and steps that need to be taken to address the crisis. 
  • Events such as UEA’s ReproducibiliTea, which have been opened up to colleagues across the Consortium. 

In addition, Eastern Arc has joined the UK Reproducibility Network, and advocates on its behalf. 

Although OR as a movement is relatively young, its principles have always been at the heart of research. Extending the boundaries of knowledge relies on the sharing of discoveries and learning from others, on ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’. 

As such it is central to the work of a research consortium, and Eastern Arc supports it as a fundamental principle, and will work to engage, encourage and develop the work of all those advocating on its behalf in each of our member institutions.