Reviewed: October 2022
AMRC supports members to encourage open research as a responsible funding practice. This topic is quite broad, can cover different research practices and has close links to other areas like research culture, career development, research assessment, etc. Here we will focus mainly on open access and data sharing, but the content will be reviewed and updated regularly.
Open research is the practice of science in such a way that others can collaborate and contribute, where research data, lab notes and other research processes are freely available, under terms that enable reuse, redistribution and reproduction of the research and its underlying data and methods (Foster Open Science).
Open access specifically refers to making research outputs freely available online to read, download and reuse by anyone, anywhere. This differs from the traditional method of keeping research outputs behind paywalls and access barriers like subscriptions. In the context of academic publishing, research outputs usually refer to peer reviewed outputs, such as scientific articles, methods, study protocols, systematic reviews, registered reports, datasets and more. However, there are other research outputs such as impact reports, policy guidelines and strategy documents which can also be made openly accessible.
There are two routes for open access, known as the ‘Gold route’ and the ‘Green route’. The Gold route involves paying a fee (APC, article processing charge) to the publisher which makes the full text freely available to readers immediately on publication. For the Green route there is no publishing fee, but the author must deposit a copy of the full text in an open access repository after an embargo period (usually six months).
Data sharing refers to making the data resulting from and underpinning research freely and openly available. This can include research materials, software, code, or participant information. This data is held in a public repository and information is provided within research articles so that it can be accessed and reused by others. Research data should be formatted and located in such a way that it is FAIR – findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable.
However, there are cases where data should not be openly shared. In these cases, it is helpful to follow the principle of keeping it “as open as possible, as closed as necessary”. For example, personal information like patient data requires extra safeguards to protect people’s privacy and should not be made ‘open’ unless the person consents to this. You can find out more about our work on patient data and its role in enabling the research our members fund here.
AMRC members are committed to saving and improving people’s lives through research. Ensuring that data and outputs from the research they fund are shared widely and freely helps to minimise waste, duplication and delay, thereby maximising return on investments. If research results are shared without restriction, then charities’ funding can be used to its best advantage by researchers all over the world, to the ultimate benefit of people living with and affected by health conditions. Open research is particularly important for medical research charities that rely on donations from the public to fund research into life limiting or fatal conditions that is urgently needed.
Open research benefits the research, researchers and society:
If you have any questions about this topic or information to share, please get in touch with our Director of Research Policy, Catriona Manville ([email protected]).