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Building an Open Research Community at Surrey

Institutions play an integral part in promoting behaviours that are valued within research practice. These behaviours support openness, transparency and reproducibility throughout the research process. They can include diverse practices such as open access to publications and data, open notebooks, software and code, and pre-registering research plans.

The University of Surrey provides a useful case study of how an institution can help nurture and develop an Open Research culture within its researcher community.

Surrey Reproducibility Society

Engaging postgraduate researchers is an important part of steering research culture change and developing an Open Research community. Working with students and early career researchers (ECRs), the Surrey Reproducibility Society (SRS) seeks to prevent a cycle of ‘unteaching’. Inspired by the work of the UK Reproducibility Network (UKRN), the SRS aims to provide a safe space to discuss, develop and increase knowledge of open and reproducible methods among the ECR community.

To date, the SRS is home to over one hundred students and ECRs within the University. The SRS offers a monthly series of workshops, talks, mini-hacks and a monthly ReproducibiliTea journal club, allowing ECRs to engage with current developments in Open Research and apply them in their own research practice. Further, the SRS provides ECRs with the means to shape research culture by offering a seat at the University’s Open Research Working Group (ORWG); in effect, bringing together the University’s ECR community and wider community of researchers and professional services.

Surrey Open Research Working Group

Surrey Open Research Working Group (ORWG) is an action-oriented team of researchers and professional services that aims to advance open research practice across the University. The ORWG has helped to build the Open Research community at Surrey, resulting in the expansion of related activities across the University. ORWG initiatives include the Surrey Open Research questionnaire to obtain a baseline on awareness and knowledge of open research, Open Research awards (discussed below), and the subsequent development of online training and Open Research badging.

‘Open Research in practice’ Online Module 

Knowledge and skills development are at the heart of any Open Research community. To add to the many training opportunities available at Surrey, this week we are proud to launch an action-oriented Open Research online module that encourages and rewards engagement with open practice.

Created by the University of Surrey Library, the module introduces a range of topics relevant to researchers at all levels and from different disciplines.  The module highlights essential actions aligned to University and funder expectations but also encourages researchers to adopt further open practices relevant to their own field. Upon completion of the module, researchers receive a digital micro-credential in the form of an Open Research badge.  

Open Research and Transparency Showcase 

To celebrate the variety of Open Research practices already taking place at the University, the inaugural Surrey Open Research and Transparency Showcase ran in March 2021. The event was designed to showcase the many ways in which researchers across different disciplines employ open, transparent, and reproducible approaches in their research. 

Applicants submitted case studies outlining how they had used Open Research practices to achieve their research aims, and the challenges and benefits of doing so. Ten case studies were drawn from the disciplines of Politics, Law, Biology, Health Science, Artificial Intelligence and Business Studies, to name a few. Two awards were presented: Best Case Study, and Best “How-To” Guide. 

UK Reproducibility Network 

Whilst growing an Open Research community within Surrey is key, it is crucial to engage with the wider Open Research community. Surrey joined the UK Reproducibility Network (UKRN) in November 2019, committing to appointing an Institutional Lead; a senior academic role focussed on research improvement.

The UKRN was established with the goal of ensuring that the UK remains a centre for world-leading research. It comprises a grassroots researcher-led network, supported by a steering group. As well as providing valuable resources such as Open Research primers, the network empowers its members to support initiatives including the ReproducibiliTea journal club and RIOT science club; providing training in Reproducible, Interpretable, Open and Transparent research.

The Future at Surrey

Creating an Open Research community requires an institutional commitment to engaging stakeholders at multiple levels. Surrey’s community continues to build on the momentum set out in its position statement. Alongside the previously mentioned activities, next year the ORWG will be hosting its inaugural Open Research Lecture, and the SRS will host its first conference, aiming to equip students and ECRs with tools to make their current research studies more open. The Open Research journey is a long and exciting one; Surrey has taken substantial steps so far and is committed to continuing to put openness at the centre of research culture.”

About the authors:

Dr Emma Wise is a Research Fellow in virology at the University of Surrey, working on herpes simplex virus.

Dr Emma Henderson is a Research Fellow in Open Research and research culture at the University of Surrey.

Micheal Slade is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Politics at the University of Surrey and the current president of Surrey Reproducibility Society.

Prof Emily Farran is the Academic Lead for Research Culture and Integrity and UKRN Institutional Lead, University of Surrey

Dr Christine Daoutis co-leads the Open Research team at the University of Surrey.

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