On 4 June 2019, the University of Edinburgh hosted “FAIR Science: tricky problems and creative solutions” – a one-day event that brought together local life scientists and research support staff to discuss systemic issues within the current academic culture as well as potential solutions.

The event was led by junior postdoctoral research fellow, Ralitsa Madsen, who joined Edinburgh University in October 2018 – following a Medical Science PhD at University of Cambridge. With inspiration from the Data Champion programme at Cambridge, Ralitsa’s aim with the FAIR event was to promote engagement with and support for Open Science initiatives.

The event was popular – with around 100 attendees – featuring both students, postdocs, principle investigators and administrative staff. The first session focussed on the “tricky problems”, including talks about the reproducibility problem in science and the need for senior PIs to promote Open Science practices (by Prof Robert Semple) as well as the need to abandon the flawed impact factor during research assessment (by Dr Will Cawthorn). Such changes are more likely to happen in the presence of financial incentives, and Aki MacFarlane, Open Research Programme Officer at the Wellcome Trust, offered insight into current Open Science initiatives at Wellcome and why funders consider this an important topic.

The second session focussed on the “creative solutions”, featuring ASAPbio’s Associate Director Dr Naomi Penfold advocating for preprints and Prof Malcolm Macleod emphasising research transparency. Attendees also learnt how they might use RSpace as an electronic lab notebook that integrates with the Open Science infrastructure, in addition to various Open Science and Data Management resources that are available through the University’s Research Data Support team. Dr Sacha Jones discussed lessons learnt from running the maturing Data Champion programme at University of Cambridge, and how similar programmes elsewhere may encourage engagement with Open Science. Prof Andrew Millar closed the event with more details about Edinburgh University’s commitment to DORA.

Around 20 % of event attendees provided their contact details for future contact and engagement with local Open Science initiatives, reflecting a high interest in the topic. Following-up discussions will focus on establishing a local network of Open Research Champion who will aim to support work by the UKRN, including lobbying for the recognition of Open Science practices in hiring, promotion and funding decisions.

The event was funded by the Institute for Academic Development (IAD, University of Edinburgh) and The UK Biochemical Society. Discussions from the day can be found on Twitter using #FAIRScienceEDI, and individual presentations are available under a CC-BY licence via the following link: https://osf.io/meetings/FAIRScienceEDI/

open science initiatives

Pie chart summarising the Open Science initiatives that attendees of the FAIR Science event ranked as most promising.


This summary was written by Ralitsa Madsen