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A modern take on research communication, Part IV: Commitment and call to action

Photo by Erik Witsoe on Unsplash

This post is the last in a four-part series by Jennifer Gibson. The first post, on the shape and impact of research communication is available here. Reactions from readers are very welcome. Please use the commenting function.


In putting this piece together, my aim has been to speak to my colleagues in academic publishing (whether they work with dedicated publishing houses, university presses or other, campus-based publishing initiatives), other research communication, research, research support, libraries and scholarly communication programs. I’ve invited you all to consider how your own recent experiences under COVID, what we’ve learned about equity and inclusion, and your own ambitions for research communication might affect your views on our work.

Do you think we're achieving all that we can?

I hope I’ve offered some interesting food for thought. As I leave you, let me share a few prompts, exhortations and cheers that I hope will help nudge us all toward a more modern system.

To publishers of all kinds:

How do you think we might realign what we do and re-assert the value we can offer in a 21st-century context? As open research practises grow, and our communities become more globally inclusive, how might our operations be reorganised? At another OASPA 2021 panel, dubbed Game-changers: Revisiting and reforming modes and moments for sharing new findings, we considered whether facilitating peer review and communicating about new findings could be enduring services in a fully open environment.

To researchers:

Keep participating. Enable collaboration and accelerate discovery and share your work at every relevant stage. If your advisors or collaborators express reluctance, get more advice elsewhere; open research is an expanding practice that’s gaining support. You just have to talk to the right people.

And, share your expertise; support those brave souls exposing their plans and results before they normally might, and offer constructive feedback only you can. The constructive – and respectful – bit is really important. For underrepresented and early-stage researchers, there can be significant apprehension about sharing plans and results early.

Of course we also want you to remember to look beyond the publication record when you’re asked to evaluate another researcher (for funding, employment or as a candidate peer reviewer for example). Take a broad view on their contributions and consider the impact of that individual’s open sharing practises.

To librarians, community managers and other advocates

Please, carry on! I’m inspired by the high standards you encourage us all to pursue (recalling at the moment Sharla Lair’s presentation to OASPA on value-driven purchase decisions, in December 2021).

If there’s anything I would suggest, it’s that social marketing strategies will aid you in promoting open research across campus, to many disciplines at once. Social marketing speaks not only to the interventions you already organise to change researcher decision pathways, but also to the power of leveraging commercial marketing principles to develop more powerful strategies and advance change. This is a personal agenda item of mine, which I’ve advocated to the Research Data Alliance (in an October 2021 webinar) and the 2021 FORCE11 Scholarly Communication Institute (FSCI).

There’s so much more to say here, about what we can do. But I know a lot of people are thinking about these questions, too. The Royal Society of Chemistry’s Joint commitment for action on inclusion and diversity in publishing leaps to mind, where publishers are examining every aspect of their operations with a mind to improvement.  

I also have the opportunity to work differently, to help perpetuate what I advocate for here. As Executive Director of Dryad, an open data publishing platform and community, I aim to enable and encourage sharing at a level deeper down from the research article and preprint. While I do this, I commit to:

  • Engage communities that aren’t within my immediate reach, and overcome the network effect that limits participation by underrepresented communities
  • Seek to understand their needs, values, and perspectives of communities that are new to me, and embrace that they are unlikely to be the same as mine
  • Showcase the h*ll out of the data, so it’s seen and used
  • Help the right individuals get credit for their work, whether they’re underrepresented, overshadowed, or simply overlooked
  • Help make data from communities worldwide a first-class citizen in research assessment, research, and teaching

In formulating these posts for my talk at Adelphi in October, I connected my training in Mediaeval Studies and my career in open research for the first time. After my undergraduate degree I pursued a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA), as a longer-term, risk-mitigation strategy (i.e. to make sure I was employable!). The MBA helped me to understand many of the dynamics at play in the spaces described here, but it’s the BA that really inspired me – by helping me to see what we’re capable of, with the right motivation. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can achieve, as we devise a truly modern system for research communication, together.

Copyright © 2022 Jennifer Gibson. Distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.