Recently Diane Hird, the LNL Community Project Coordinator, met with Emma Wilson and Dr Will Cawthorn to learn more about the Edinburgh Open Research Initiative (EORI). This blog is the result of that conversation. Huge thanks to Emma and Will for their time.
EORI is a grassroots collective of students and staff that aim to promote awareness of and training in Open Research practices and policies, and lobby for these to be implemented and formally recognised by the University of Edinburgh. EORI is run by a small team of volunteers.
Emma is a third-year PhD student in the Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences, working on a meta-research framework to evaluate evidence from animal models of neurodevelopmental conditions. Emma started running EORI and the Edinburgh ReproducibiliTea journal club in 2022.
Will is a Senior Lecturer in the Department for Cardiovascular Science, working on clinical and pre-clinical biomedical research. As the UKRN Local Network Lead (LNL) for Edinburgh, Will considers himself ‘a plucky enthusiast’ although perhaps ‘open research champion’ would be more accurate term. In his LNL role Will shares UKRN news on the EORI Teams group and identifies relevant people within University of Edinburgh to share UKRN information with. Will is also the Edinburgh Open Science ambassador within the League of European Research Universities (LERU).
The backstory: In 2019, a conference on FAIR (Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability, and Reuse) data brought together lots of different groups across Edinburgh who were interested in open science, and identified the need for a more-coordinated network across the university. As a result, Will’s PhD student, Ben Thomas, set up the Edinburgh Open Research Initiative (EORI). At their initial meeting it became clear that there were lots of individuals and fragmented groups across University of Edinburgh, and that there were duplicated efforts and content sharing across different departments and colleges. One of this first things EORI wanted to do was set up a ReproducibiliTea club. They discovered that there was already a ReproducibiliTea club running in Psychology, led by PhD students Niamh Macsweeney and Laura Klinkhammer, and for a while these two overlapped but they have now have come together as one club.
Both EORI and ReproducibiliTea were grassroots initiatives, spanning mainly biomedical science, veterinary medicine, biology and psychology. Importantly at the same time within University of Edinburgh there was increasing discussion around research culture, open research, and the responsible use of metrics, with the Library working on open science initiatives and policy. University policies around open science are now more formalised, for example there is a University of Edinburgh open research road map.
Open Research: Will doesn’t think there is reluctance from students or researchers to engage with open research, rather that it may feel like yet another thing they have to consider and they find it daunting. The task of EORI is to make that easier. One EORI strategy is to target undergraduate students when they are about to start their first independent research project in final year.
Emma thinks it’s worth acknowledging that we’re all a bit daunted by some aspects of open research, we all have areas that we know less about, and that we can help each other. Emma also pointed out that there are lots of different types of data, for example within philosophy or artists’ creative practice. If we aim to broaden out open research, it would be useful to meet and discuss with people working in these areas to gain an understanding of what they consider data and how it should be handled. For example, at their 2023 open research conference there was a session on data papers in Humanities and Social Sciences, half the audience comprised scientists interested in how to apply open science to Humanities and Social Sciences. Library staff involvement can be key here because they work with researchers in different disciplines.
A challenge for EORI is there is not a clear way to find people who are interested in and/or using open research practices at the university. A little bit of detective work is sometimes required, for example someone’s online profile may show that they have shared content on Github or OSF, indicating that they are aware of/using open research practices.
Similarly it can be hard to identify and coordinate with training initiatives that aren’t listed under an open research banner but are relevant to open research, for example a data sharing/code sharing event might fall under a digital research skills banner.
Will would like to see training courses in open research skills and to have information about EORI included in the onboarding information for new postgraduate students and researchers, and a statement on open research and links to EORI included in PhD students’ annual review.
There are a range of open science activities and resources within Edinburgh:
EORI Teams Group: The Teams group has around 150 members. The majority are from sciences and engineering with some social science researchers, there are also Research Support, Library Services and other Professional Services members. The Teams group is a hub for communicating, sharing resources and organising meetings. One real benefit of having a recognisable hub is that it signals that there is an open science community. At the university level there is now better signposting to open science policies and resources (including an Open Research Blog and dedicated, university-wide webpages: https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/research-support/open-research), but at the individual researcher level it is good to have a central Teams group where they can go for information. Emma would like the EORI Teams group to become a space where people can ask questions and have more interaction, for example Library Services using it to reach out to researchers inviting them to give talks. At present new post-grads/staff are usually made aware of the EORI Teams site through word of mouth, although this is not systematic and will be missing people.
ReproducibiliTea: The ReproducibiliTea journal club is a great way to address issues around reproducibility and research culture. The committee has two undergraduate reps who promote the club with fellow undergrads and student groups. The team try to choose broadly applicable papers and there are sometimes invited speakers. They held a successful(!) event on academic failure, this is discipline agnostic – everyone is going to experience failure. Emma would like to run a session on data management with several speakers who work with different data types, both qualitative and quantitative. Other ideas include discussing a recent Ecology paper on using Github for people who don’t code, but can collaborate and write manuscripts within Guthub. One challenge is that whilst some papers are applicable to a wider audience it can be hard to discern that from an initial read of the paper. And as always ‘there’s a lot that we could do it’s just finding the time.’
Talks: Library Services invited Emma to give a talk to fellow researchers on how she uses the Open Science Framework (OSF) website. This arrangement worked well for both parties: the library organised and ran the event, Emma was able to share her experiences with fellow researchers and her talk was also written up as a case study. Will gave a keynote talk at the 2023 Open Research Conference (see below), about how open research can improve research culture and integrity.
Conferences: The university has held two open research conferences, in 2022 and 2023. EORI, Library Services and Research Culture staff at University of Edinburgh were involved in organizing these. The conferences were widely advertised across University of Edinburgh, well attended (including international participants) and a good way to raise awareness, highlight policies and challenges around open research.
Simple activities everyone can do right now:
- If you lecture, include a slide at the end with information and links to open research activities and communication hubs at your organization.
- Encourage the good open research practice of replacing journal names with article DOIs for example in a departmental newsletters. This reduces bias for/against particular journals and journal impact factors, it also promotes the use of DOIs as persistent identifiers.
Benefits: Emma sees clear benefits in being part of EORI and running ReproducibiliTea including learning about the bigger picture. She is able to speak about her research more confidently, better able to organise events, write blogs, connect with people and form networks. As Emma says ‘These are all skills that you need within research but they’re not really taught’. Emma feels that if she wanted to move into Professional Services she now has a better understanding of their role within the research landscape. Will added that for researchers intending to stay within research it is also really helpful to gain understanding of and begin to adopt open science practices as part of their PhD studies.
LNL Community Project: When asked what activities they would like the LNL Community Project to focus on, both suggested a central hub where people from different institutions can share information and content (one existing resource here is the Open Research Calendar). Within EORI there is always the worry that they are duplicating things that are happening elsewhere. The issues they talk about at University of Edinburgh are not Edinburgh-specific issues. This is where an awareness of what other UKRN local networks are doing would be useful. Will also suggested a cross-discipline journal club, perhaps every 3 -6 months, that anyone could jump into.
Dr Diane Hird, LNL Community Project Coordinator, UK Reproducibility Network