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Incentivising open practices

While some studies have shown that researchers share data because it’s the right thing to do [1], direct benefits clearly have a tangible impact too. Several research papers have demonstrated a boost in citation rates across a range of disciplines when underlying data are shared [2]. There have also been repeated calls over the years for good practice to be recognised as part of tenure or promotion criteria, though few concrete examples of doing so have arisen to date.

In his keynote at the Repository Fringe conference earlier this month, Dr Paul Ayris, Pro-Vice-Provost, reported that UCL have done exactly that – there is now explicit recognition of open practices in the Academic Careers Framework.

“All research outputs are available through Open Access wherever possible”

This means that academics will be rewarded for open practices, whether that be making their published works available open access, sharing research data, or undertaking work in an open way. The addition is intentionally broad to recognise any contributions towards open scholarship. The provision is a threshold criterion, which is expected of all academic colleagues embracing the new Framework. Academic colleagues are free to submit examples of their Open approach to sharing their research outputs and the impact that this sharing has.

What was particularly encouraging to hear was that the University didn’t receive any resistance to this change. Typically the difficulties in updating policy and mandating openness are put forward as a barrier, but in their year-long consultation with Faculty, this provision was accepted.

Mirroring policy structures on a European level, the University has also established its own Open Science Policy Platform to coordinate work across all areas of open scholarship and ensure the institution leads developments in this field.

Another impressive development at UCL is the introduction of the first fully Open Access University Press. Paul noted how this has transformed monograph publishing and distribution, citing examples of textbooks with over 100,000 accesses, whereas 400 copies is considered a good level of sales for the traditional publication route. Authors also explained their choice in opting for the Press over other routes, considering openness to colleagues in developing countries a key factor.

The progress made at UCL to recognise and support open practices will undoubtedly help speed forward the culture change. It should also inspire other institutions to follow suit. If you have policies requiring the management and sharing of research outputs, recognising and rewarding those who act on these should also follow.

For the full presentation Paul gave with Tiberius Ignat of Scientific Knowledge Services in Switzerland, see the University of Edinburgh ERA repository.

[1] The 2016 Jisc DAF study of 1,185 UK researchers found that the highest reason cited as a motivation for sharing data was that “Research is a public good and should be open to all”. See slide 20 at: https://www.slideshare.net/JiscRDM/daf-survey-results-research-data-network The e-Infrastructures Austria study of 3026 Austrian researchers found that 54% of respondents considered research data to be a relevant scientific output, noting this as the fourth highest incentive to share. See question 16 in the full report at: https://phaidra.univie.ac.at/detail_object/o:409318?SID=10009269

[2] For example see the references in the SPARC Europe briefing paper on “The Open Data Citation Advantage” at: http://sparceurope.org/open-data-citation-advantage