The future of open research – How can we work together to create a common ground? transcript

Daniel Ridge: In this episode I'm joined by Glenn Hampson, founder and director of the Open Scholarship Initiative, OSI, a diverse inclusive global network of high level experts and stakeholder representatives, working together with UNESCO to develop sustainable solutions to the future of open scholarship lens policy document “Common Ground in the global quest for open research” was recently published on Emerald open research and highlights themes such as alternative measures of impact funding and the future of open research, we'll be discussing these themes in more in this episode.

Hi Glenn thanks for joining me today.

Glenn Hampson: Thanks for having me.

DR: So let's start with the very basics when we're talking about open and transparent research what are we talking about here. Yeah, it's a really good question, and I think that there's a lot of confusion about that people use those two terms interchangeably. And they're really not they're not synonymous. So let me talk visually if I can hear open, really exists on a spectrum of outcomes, and an OSI the organisation that I'm with we categorise this spectrum we've described it in along five different dimensions and we call it darts da RTS. The D stands for how discoverable particular information artifact is so, you know, can this information be found online is it indexed by searching indexes and databases, and so on. And then the A stands for accessible. Once you've discovered it can it be read by anyone free of charge, is it available in a timely manner. Is it machine readable it's a data set included and so forth that R in darts stands for reusable, which has to do with the licensing mode of it, of this information artifact. And then also, you know what other conditions technical and legal and so forth, can prevent it from being reused or shared the T, gets to your question, transparency, what do we know about the provenance of the information is a peer reviewed. What do we know about the funding source conflicts of interest. What do we know about the study design and analysis and things like that, that really gets to the heart of issues of integrity and science. And then, sustainable is another important condition. Is this just a flash in the pan open, is this information, artifact sustainable. Maybe hard to know that particular answer. So we've got open existing longness spectrum, and it results in these different flavors of open that we've all heard green gold diamond bronze etc. and each of those has different elements of these darts displayed. So, when we talk about open access generally we're talking about the most favorable outcomes on all those things are sort of at the right end of the spectrum if you can picture that the right end being really super open and the left end being super close. And all of these practices can improve transparency in science and information right. They help improve the integrity and reliability of science but they aren't necessary or sufficient conditions so open science can be bad. and close science can be good. In our goal is to utilise open to make science better and help science really get to the right place. And one other condition that we really don't pay enough attention to is the gatekeeping mechanism throughout all this because one of the main goals and open is to try to get things out there. Quickly, right. But these practices can also mean being a little bit careless with how we get information out there quickly and peer review is short changed or we have different ideas of what peer review means and in different settings. And so, with the COVID crisis for example we see a lot of information, kind of slipped through the cracks that really doesn't do the research any justice so we have to be careful with with that element of open to get back to your question, open and transparent, we need to work on open to make sure that it feeds into this transparency in the right way and that we get the best of both

DR: Glenn, can you tell me about OSI?

GH: Yeah, I'd love to. So, OSI stands for the open scholarship initiative scholarship as in research writ large. Not just science and not just humanities and so forth but the whole endeavor of scholarship. And we're a group of. We have about 450 participants, or have had over the last five years, in our group. And these are largely leaders in the science communication arena from, think about 20 different stakeholder groups so we're talking about publishers librarians funders, or researchers, government officials and so forth. And our goal, working together, is to try to come up with sustainable future for open.

DR: Well, so research on open access, being published on Open Access, is becoming more and more popular and there's been a tide shift in recent years. So Emerald recently did a cultural survey. And we found that publishing through open access went from 29% in 2019, that is people who support it and have a positive attitude to 51% 2020 so that's roughly half of researchers are now thinking about publishing open access or already have, What do you think has been the main driver of this change?

GH: Yeah, it's, hats off to all the organisations that have been pushing real hard over the years to try to make open the default forum Emerald among the publishers who have really put out some great open products. Really though, we have to look carefully at these numbers. I don't mean to push back on you know again. The question but there is no set definition for open right. So when people talk about open they're talking about it in different ways. Some people are referring just to gold open some people are talking about green. Some people are talking about anything that you can read. And so, the numbers really haven't moved much for the strictest kind of open over the last 20 years. And that is the kind of open that's CCB license that's immediate in the right kind of repositories and so forth. That's still that very stringent approach to open a still shuttering along at around 20-25% or so of the total amount of open in the world. When we look at the full spectrum of outcomes so in here we're talking about everything from right gold to green to bronze to to whatever, then yes those kinds of outcomes have been increasing to where over 50% of materials being published today are being published in a quote unquote open format but by that we could mean something is still copyrighted and embargoed, and it shows up on PubMed Central, right. So, that being said, this difference between in definitions is important to note but it's also important to look at underlying in your survey and another surveys that have been done, what feelings are about open, and this CCB why licensing requirement is still quite unpopular with authors and…

DR: can you explain that a little bit?

GH: Yeah, so CCBY is Creative Commons licensing and the BY component means that you can freely share an article, and the only requirement of it is that you say where the article came from, you provide attribution. But a lot of authors feel uncomfortable with that they're worried about their information being misused and are not getting the attribution that they deserve for that work so they prefer to have to add on a few other conditions like NC which is noncommercial and no derivatives. And when you have a CC BY NC nd license. It's just a fraction of a step away from just a regular copyright, where you can retain full rights to the material and then under fair use limitations somebody can reuse your material, just fine. So, what we see is this growth in the use of often but not a growth in the acceptance of this CCB why sort of condition. So, again we're counting different kinds of growth, if that makes sense, but it by the strictest definition of open we're still kind of stuck in the 2002 era.

DR: Well, you mentioned some trepidations that authors might have, what do you think has been the biggest pushback then with open access.

GH: Yeah, it's according to survey data it really is the licensing and the concern about misuse, and it really goes, looking at the history of science I'm reading a book right now about 400 pages and it starts to talk about the origins of science with regard to publishing and how integral publishing was with regard to to how we see science how we do science how science gets shared. And in particular, talking about concerns about credit. Right. In these enormous debates that went on between Newton and Halle and flamsteed and other scientists at the time. Worried about how their data was going to be misappropriated and other people are going to take credit for their inventions and misrepresent the data. And those same tensions exist today, and kind of run roughshod over them when we talk about requiring scientists to just release their data, immediately and CCP licensed without taking into account what what they're concerned about so. So those apprehensions are still there. That said, we have a greater appreciation today for the need to share data and make it more accessible and so things like fair, have gained wide adoption right making data finable accessible interoperable reusable. These are still sort of just aspirational, though, because, even with wide adoption of fair. The devil is in the details, we're making it finable to whom, and what's being opened, and how reusable, is it actually, and how accessible Can it really be if it contains things like private health information, or if it's too cumbersome to share if the data set is you know huge image databases and so forth. And then again you know layered on top of all this sort of the same concerns about misuse and misrepresentation and so open, open data and this whole sharing thing it's a really complex and volatile black box really that we've only recently begun to deal with.

DR: Well you had mentioned the gatekeepers and how gatekeepers are important and acting as referees maybe on publishing open access. And obviously, you know, with the general Impact Factor playing a role and in that process. Those are the biggest gatekeepers aren't they? You know there are a lot of researchers whose institutions are pushing them to publish an Impact Factor journals, but we have a lot of different opportunities with open access, and then there are a lot of pushes like Altmetrics which measure different measurements of impact and then of course Dora, the Declaration on research assessment, that's pushing for a shift away from general impacts. Do you think it's really possible to reform this journal Impact Factor attitude and can you see alternatives to that?

GH: I’m showing my age. That's the $64,000 question right, nobody knows. Altmetrics are nearly as they're interesting but they haven't really been a substitute for impact factors. And there's just a whole constellation of things like Dora that are out there that people have signed on to the leeton manifesto Dora affair and so on. These are sentiments that are expressing frustration of the scholarly communication community. And what's going on with regard to the culture of communication in academia and with regard to, you know, the need to be open and yet preserve credit and preserve the mechanisms for gatekeeping and so forth. But there is no silver bullet yet publishers and funders in particular value the impact factor for what it gives them for being able to monitor in their own ways, what's important in science what's resonating, but the idea that we can get rid of these impact measures simply by creating a world of open, it's not going to happen because we're human we like to rank things right, there's always going to be the best open journal are the most impactful whatever. So even if we do away with the journal impact factor the official version of it. There's going to be other ways of measuring that so it's a good question and I don't know the answer.

DR: Yeah, it's something that we've been struggling with, you know, all week during these discussions, but it's something that we we regularly encounter. Yeah, So, I've noticed in your work you talked about how we need to stop aligning our limited funding primarily behind a one size fits all solution. Can you expand on that a little bit?

GH: Yeah, so we've been working in this space my organisation is working in this space just just since 2015, and before that the science communication institute that I also run has been working in this space since about 2010. And it's pretty evident that well in science communication in general there is not enough funding. There's sort of a lack of understanding for the importance of science communication in science, but with specific regard to to open access the major funders in this space are, by and large, with a few notable exceptions aligned behind the philosophy that open is a binary outcome that something is either open or it's not that it's either open as the coalition s folks have defined it for example, which is you know ccpi immediate and a host of other conditions. They don't recognise open as existing along a spectrum and so the funding that they're providing for open infrastructure efforts and for for open education efforts and so forth are all geared toward promoting that version of open which, which again, as I mentioned earlier is sort of stuck in the mud. It's not being widely accepted for reasons of, you know that CCP license or whatever the fact it's just not what the market is is rolling out in terms of open so if we can get to the point, if these funders who are very important in this ecosystem can get to the point where they can appreciate that this variety of outcomes and but that we're all working together to improve science and to improve the benefit of science for society. If we can see that bigger picture and fun efforts that can help develop our common ground and our common interests, I think we'll be better off than just getting behind efforts that only promote this one vision and this one path open

DR: Right, so there are people like us that are discussing these things about open access and in different avenues and things like that but for an average researcher who wants to publish an article who's not really involved in the discussion, you know what sort of incentives, can we offer them to make open more attractive.

GH: Yeah, well, one is, again, I keep coming back to the spectrum, I wish I had a picture to put on me. Audio but coming back to this idea of the spectrum that there's a variety of outcomes. Right. And it shouldn't be that you have to jump through 1000 hoops to get to open it could be just as simple as publishing a preprint so that people can read your research. But, aligning the incentives is going to be an important part of what you're talking about. So why do people want to publish open now I mean that there's a variety of incentives, some people fact the majority of research coordinator one survey after another, want to publish open because they want their research to be more visible and to have a broader impact and open can achieve that. But they also want to make sure that they receive quality peer review, and they also want to make sure that the journal that they publish in has a high impact. Again, going back to this Impact Factor thing. So how do we get all of those things together because right now they can kind of be on opposite sides of the open reality frame so the things that are the highest quality aren't necessarily the things that are, that we think of is most open one way that we can get to that point is to improve open, right, to make sure that we put the same quality controls into our open publications as we have developed for our subscription efforts. Another is to do something with open, write make it abundantly clear that there's a benefit to publishing and open because, by being open the data can be integrated, you're getting, not only more reads and more citations from your work but you're also getting more reuse in a way that advances to research. Make it a no brainer that, why wouldn't you want to publish an open, because when you do this, you have 10 times the researchers who are out there taking your information and improving on it in ways that would never be possible if it was sort of sequestered into this little side street of science. So that's where we can focus, but that main avenue that really glitzy, you know, Las Vegas strip of open. It doesn't exist in just one flavor, we need to really focus on really developing the potential for open in a way that makes it exciting and inviting and intriguing. And that's how we get to the future of open.

DR: Something that I've noticed as a barrier is actually the style of the way something is written, in the way information is produced. You know we're trying to reach practitioners, and we want to get practitioners involved that's always sort of hot button topic with publishers and then with authors who want to get outside of the ivory tower and then you publishers who want to get that workout so the ivory tower. But then you know it's written in such a style that an average business person isn't going to want to read something that's so academic and out of touch with reality.

GH: That's a different animal altogether. Once you're done with open we can talk about that. It's something that's bothered me forever. You hear it argued different ways right some people will say, well, you have to write that way because that's the language of a particular field. And then you hear others say well yeah but if you if you if you write in such a stilted academic whatever, however you describe journal writing manner, then you're excluding the business world you're excluding the lay world and the policy world and you require these intermediaries to exist science journalists who can you know read Latin and translate it to the general public. I think it's unfortunate that we've gotten to that point and there's even some studies that have that I've shown how language in science has become more complex over the last 50 years where they like take an article written in. I think I read one example of written in geology, the articles written very clearly in 1950, you could clearly understand what they're talking about. And then, by 19 92,000. There are no single syllable words.

DR: Yeah, actually research from the 1950s is some of my favorite. It's very clear, it's very clear.

GH: Yes, right. So, well, the question is has science just become more complicated since then, or have we just decided to sound cooler to meet the requirements of journals, you know, whatever that we have to write more complicated.

DR: Yeah, and it what it does is it keeps it in the ivory tower. Yes, and it keeps it in a smaller group of people who have, you know, intellectual access and the intellectual will to work through that language to understand these articles.

GH: I don't disagree but then there are people who would say well how do you, how do you explain genetics, in a way that is both precise and accurate, and yet understandable and sort of gets into the realm of science writing  that I would love to see researchers train in that so they can write that way but it’s not currently on the radar.

DR: Yeah, well, in terms of open access, do you see this affecting different reaserach communities differently sciences to social sciences?

GH: Yeah and it already does. Physics and astronomy were pioneers in this area. They stared archives back in the early 1990s and this whole debate about open access is kind of silly to them because that’s all they do whereas other fields like chemistry have been more closed anyway. In physics and astronomy and it varies. There's also different requirements between STEM fields, and HSS humanities and social science fields where the stem, people tend to rely more on journal articles and social science people tend to rely more on manuscripts for long form books right and so this whole question about what the future will look like really depends on the different needs for different fields. Some will be served really well just by, maybe even sort of changing the journal article to just a summary that's accompanied by the data, right a quick summary, the full data set with explanations of what the data is so that it can be reused properly.

DR: Where do you see us going you know I mean we're talking maybe globally here and conflating the different domains but you know as a research community what do you think we need to focus on over the next two to three years, if we want to see, you know, more development in the transition to open?

GH: So, a couple of things. OSI has put together a plan called Plan A, and in that plan, we call for number one, doing more research in this field we really don't know what we don't know right now, what is the impact of predatory publishing on the journal landscape, what kind of open works best. And where and why how necessary are embargoes, how short can we get of an embargo period, can we can we get by with. We've on our plan a website which can get you through the OSI website we've identified a number of questions that we should look into. Number two is we need to work together on developing infrastructure, I think everybody in this space recognises the need for infrastructure. The third part is education and outreach. There's a lot of people on the open space who just, just don't know. You mentioned this before but, you know, researchers who want to do open, but they don't know why they should. And they don't know how, and it can be very complicated, and it can also be unrealistic. For many researchers who don't have an office at their university to help them figure out all these things. And then the fourth touch point is common ground work. We have a lot of common ground in this space, common interests, common goals. And if we can work together on those especially the ones that can not only help prove, worth of open but also solve important societal problems at the same time so the COVID thing is great example right. Can we come together, and bring this data together for COVID and demonstrate how open works where we're doing the former we're bringing the stage together but we're not really demonstrating that that we're doing it the right way because there's so much again there's so much junk that kind of has flooded into the system too but we've certainly seen the potential. So those four things studies infrastructure development, education outreach and common ground work and I think that gets us to a future of open that's a very robust, and it's sustainable as well.

DR: Well the last word, that sustainability, I'm curious about what you specifically mean maybe in terms of OA.

GH: Well, solutions, need to be maintained. Right. So a lot of times when we talk about infrastructure development, not we but when some people in the space talk about infrastructure development. They're talking about a hand to mouth kind of existence. Why don't we get this foundation to finance this sort of solution, right? But getting that kind of support indefinitely is not sustainable. And then there's also e sustainable and in terms of whether data has has the right sort of, whether it's preserved properly, whether the resource development exists for building capacity for for maintaining solutions. It's not enough to just say let's go ahead and make things open we have to make sure that they're open today, tomorrow and into the future.

DR: Yeah well along those lines you know it's not just enough to say it's open we also want to make it inclusive and accessible.

GH: Yes, right.

DR: So, this year's theme for a week is open with purpose, and one of those purposes is inclusiveness and accessibility. How do you think we as a research community can help foster that.

GH: It's not important to everybody. And it's, that's just the reality of it there's different motives for for being open. For some people it's just about improving the replicability of their work for some people it's just improving collaboration in their work. I don't want to say it's important just for a minority of researchers but again looking at the survey data. Equity and Inclusion is important but it's still people are still selfish. If you want to put it that way. They're concerned about whether their researches is good.

DR: And they're concerned about their careers, the impact factor is still such an obstacle.

B Yeah, yeah. But you know that said Equity and Inclusion are in that top 10 list, they're just near the bottom. And I think we can do it without necessarily saying that this is the only reason that brings us all together, right. It's possible to make research to flip the incentives, such that people are doing open because it benefits them. But hey, at the same time it's also advancing Equity and Inclusion concerns. I don't think there are any shortcuts here though we can't just take the Sai hub approach where we steal everybody's content and then declare Mission accomplished. It needs to be sincere and it needs to be robust, so that we're including the need to improve access as part of the greater ethos of science and it always has been right it's sharing information and working together is, is, has been foundational since, since, day one and what science is about and how it advances. So, this isn't a stretch, it's just different in the sense that we now need to do it globally and we need to do it across cultures and we need to do it across vast diversity of fields and so on.

DR: Well, each of those points have their own friction points, don't they?

GH: Exactly. That's exactly.

DR: When you talk about different regions of the world, different scientific domains or social science domains, those have their own issues that need to be worked out in their communities. Well, I'm curious if you meet a researcher, when you meet a researcher who hasn't published open access before an article or isn't involved in very much, what advice do you give to them?

GH: The first step in my advice my advice doesn't count first, first, you know, talk to the people in your field right, and hopefully you pick the right topic but when you're ready to publish and you're here at that point, pick a journal, it's well regarded in your field, you've read a lot, but at this point in your career so pick a journal where you would want to be published I'm not talking necessarily about Science or nature, it has to be a good fit, where else, were you getting the best information in your field. That's got to be on your wish list of places that you want to publish. The second keep your radar up. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, you know, stay away from the journals that promised peer review in 30 minutes or advertise an impact factor of 99.9. Check to see if your library or institution subscribes to something like cowbells list, so you can make sure that you're not thinking of publishing in a predatory journal, which is, you know, talked about before it's basically a fake journal with fake peer review. And then third, if you're worried about timestamping your research, then go ahead and publish a preprint first. Most of the articles that are published this way get published in journals within about nine months. So, in the interim if after you put a preprint out there you get valuable feedback from the research community. So those three things I would think but the most important thing is to do good work. Don't be in a hurry to put something out there, and there's a lot of pressure to publish and there's a lot of pressure to, to have, you know, multiple quantity counts right but I think more and more the environment and evaluation is turning toward quality as well so make sure that what you what you put out there is really representing your research and it's not just publishing for the sake of publishing.

DR: Do you feel like things are moving in the right direction with open access?  

GH: With Open Access? Yes, I do. But I also think that there's, there's a risk of diversions in this environment, as a whole, the tide is rising right we're are becoming more aware of open access we're becoming more aware of the need to publish and open funders are getting behind it institutions are getting behind and countries are getting behind it, UNESCO is on the verge of getting behind it in a bigger way. But we're also still working in our silos. There's a lot of polarisation in the space so there's still people who think that open solutions have to look one way and other people who don't agree with that and they're doing their own thing. So, what we could end up with. In the not so distant future is Europe doing one strategy the US doing something different, China doing something different, India doing something different. And there's a risk there, right? if they go five years out with these plans then, what kind of a risk does that have to whether these different bodies of science can communicate effectively with each other.

DR: Well, you are part of the sort of steering committees. You're on the Emerald open research gateway advisory board. Do you feel that you're having an influence in this domain?

GH: I do, but my input is, I'm just trying to channel the expertise that I have the privilege of sitting abreast with OSI so there's just so much expertise out there that that really needs to be heard and isn't being heard. And there really isn't an effective way outside of OSI for it to get channeled so I think it's important that we continue to have this conversation, especially with regard to putting together a global plan for the future of open, how exactly we do that though it's, I'm not sure. Again UNESCO is trying to formulate a plan for the future of open science and I'm privileged to be part of that as well. But not just open science but trying to merge together these concepts of open data and open access. Open Source, there's a lot of open solutions that are connected into the open science environment, and trying to put together a plan that is sustainable, as we talked about, but it's also very inclusive that addresses the needs of all researchers everywhere. But at the same time, they're facing these headwinds from organisations around the world that have their own agendas and that had their own ideas. And that aren't necessarily going to be very receptive to a global plan that's different than their so and caught between all this, I think are the majority of institutions, and I would say even the vast majority of researchers who really just want an answer. They don't want a solution. They don't want to be told you have to publish here in this format, with all these conditions. They want an approach to open that works for them they don't want a one size fits all solution. They want something that preserves their interests and their needs, but is also open, right. So, the future of open I think we're, we're heading in the right direction, but we're also at a critical point in the evolution of open where it's important that we work together, that we come together and our common ground and work together on our common interests.

DR: Well, COVID has really accelerated things, hasn't it?

GH: Well it's accelerated, its accelerated awareness, and that's a good thing but it's also, again it's created this environment where some people think oh see this is this is fantastic. This is what open can do but as we talked about at the outset. It doesn't mean that we've seen an explosion of high integrity research, we've seen an explosion of preprints, but we haven't necessarily seen the solution for open demonstrating itself.

DR: That makes sense though it's really kind of a rush to get information out there at a critical time, right?

GH: And and hats off to tall researchers who lower their pay the dual effect of winnowing out submissions, because people are more reluctant to submit something if they have to pay to submit, and then the fees would also help staff, the publishers better so that they can handle these volumes, just one idea among many but that's goes to the question of sustainability that you mentioned earlier,

DR: Yeah cost seems to be an obstacle.

GH: There are several key points that this OSI group came up with over the years about the future of open one of them, an important one is that open will not be free, it's going to cost something so we need to figure out how do we pay for it. If it's something that we really want, how do we pay for it.

DR: Well these are all tied to the evolution of the internet itself. I mean if you look at how apps have changed and progressed over the last few years. I remember when apps used to be free everywhere and now every single app, you have to pay for or pay subscription. So, I think that the attitude toward the internet itself might be changing where people thought well it's on the internet should be free. But somebody has to pay for it down the line.

GH: Yeah, you're exactly right, it might not necessarily be a financial transaction, it might be paying in terms of handing over your, your Facebook account or whatever there's different ways that people can monetise these these things but the pressure to be free has driven journalism into the trenches right over the last 10 years or so, where people are just getting their, their news for free and now expected. What's this. What's this paywall thing Why should I have to pay to read more than 10 articles in the New York Times, this is an outrage. And yet, in order to sustain that kind of journalism, there needs to be financing from somewhere.

DR: Thank you so much for joining me today.

GH: Thank you, Daniel it's been a pleasure.

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