Today we conducted our first workshop around the theme of open research at The Open University during Open Education Week.  This workshop draws on our experiences from OER Research Hub and the materials generated for our award-winning course on P2Pu and our textbook on Open Research.  The session was attended by both PhD students, lecturers and other faculty from across STEM, humanities and social sciences.

Here are some of the questions that people brought to the session during their introductions:

  • I don’t know much about openness so I’m here to learn more!
  • How far should I go with sharing my research?
  • How can I share my data?
  • How can I as a librarian support open research practices?
  • Open is a word that gets used a lot – but I’m not always sure what it means in the context of the research process
  • I’m studying open education so I want to learn more about being open

The first exercise invited participants to reflect on the associations that they have with ‘openness’:  what does openness mean to you?  Here are some of the responses:

  • Availability to share with people around the world
  • Making research outputs available
  • Social media can be a two-way street
  • Openness as data sharing and removing barriers to this (e.g. working with vulnerable people)
  • Some positive aspects: availability & accessibility of information; fairness; collaboration; potential empowerment
  • Openness could allow people to do things with your work that you wouldn’t do yourself
  • Some potential limitations:  openness can feel like exposing yourself to criticism; language can be a barrier; concerns about quality
  • Openness can be a principle that is not realised in practice
  • Openness an improve discoverability as long as good practice is observed
  • Open source software

We compared these responses with the definition that has been provided by Hodgkinson-Williams & King (2015).

It was noted that the open research process construed in this way involves some rethinking of the research process as it is traditionally taught at university.  For instance, the ethics approval that is required tends not to reflect possibilities for open dissemination of data.   There were also some concerns about openly sharing data and/or findings during the research process, especially for PhD students for whom this might constitute a big leap of faith.

Next up participants were invited to reflect on the research cycle as a whole and think about how openness might be a focus at different points.

Here are some of the suggestions that were made for the different stages:


  • This is the fuzziest stage where nothing is concrete yet.  There is a balance to be struck at this stage in getting feedback from people and ‘giving away’ an idea when it becomes specific enough
  • The main consideration could be ownership of ideas that have been generated openly
  • It’s important to share with the right people and be as open as appropriate with them
  • Blogging could be a way of doing this; social media provides another opportunity
  • Talk to (trusted) people!
  • Sharing at the ‘ideas’ stage can be a way to assess the viability of a research project
  • You might want to share online, but not have a network to get feedback from – how do you build a network?


  • Attend workshops and get feedback
  • Meet with people who have similar interests
  • Use feedback to develop the idea into a more feasible project
  • Context and trust is important


  • Completed grant proposals (successful or unsuccessful) can be shared for others to learn from.  Some research councils make successful proposals available as a matter of course
  • Some funding opportunities mandate open practices, such as open access dissemination
  • Networks can be leveraged to identify funding opportunities
  • Collaborators can be attracted by organisations with transparent working practices


  • Involving stakeholders in the process of planning can improve buy-in and encourage a spirit of collaboration
  • Collaborating in this way could potentially affect the perception of the objectivity of the researcher
  • A balance needs to be struck here between
  • Think about how openness might affect the rest of the project (e.g. ethics)


  • Progress can be shared through blogs, social media, newsletters, etc.
  • Sharing initial findings can improve the visibility of work
  • If you keep a research journal, this could be shared where appropriate


  • Sharing code on GitHub
  • Sharing analytic frameworks and research instruments
  • Inviting critical friends to verify results


  • Open access publication of journal papers
  • Sharing (redacted) research data on repositories
  • Need to be especially careful with personal or sensitive information – anticipate how much needs to be shared to make it useful while protecting participants
  • Using appropriate metadata to maximise reusability
  • Institutional archiving (e.g. ORO)
  • Compliance with funder requirements
  • Maximising impact through publishing in alternative channels (e.g. mass media, short video, alternative media)


  • Find out what relevant data is already out there ‘in the open’
  • Tension between peer-reviewed literature and grey literature

Next we went on to speak about some of the benefits of going open as a researcher.  Here are some of the suggestions:

  • Increase visibility
  • Dissemination
  • Building an online academic identity
  • Amplify the impact of research
  • Making connections with the right people
  • Building a network that will be useful in the future
  • Engaging people: sharing; asking questions; updating
  • Encourage re-use (and verification) of research data
  • See also

Some of the risks associated with going open include:

  • Ethics considerations as per
  • Time invested to engage in additional sharing activities: being open takes time
  • It can be discouraging if finding your voice and building your network doesn’t go well
  • Understanding which open licences to use can be confusing and there’s a chance you will get it wrong unless you learn about this

We concluded with reasons to be more open with your research:

  • Times are changing and major funders and governments are increasingly interested in open research practices
  • Open access leads to more engagement and higher citation rates
  • Openness provides a route to innovation and creativity
  • Openness is also an ethos of sharing, support and collaboration which can be of benefit

Predictably, there was much to discuss in all of this and in the end we ran out of time.  We concluded by inviting participants to think about where the limits of going open might be for them in their future research.

Thanks to all for a stimulating workshop!

You can see slides from today’s session at