The world of academic research and how findings are told to the world is changing.

Researchers willing to embrace ‘open research’ no longer have to rely on printed journals with limited reach. Instead, they can share their work with anyone and everyone who is interested.

There are certainly benefits. There are challenges too but these can be overcome.

Academic publishing is changing

The greatest traditional challenges for professional researchers, at least in common perception, are the creation of ideas and matching the resulting output to an appropriate outlet. Historically, matters like open research have perhaps not attracted much attention.

Through most of human history, research was conducted in universities and disseminated in printed journals subscribed to by university libraries. The readership of research was therefore naturally restricted to those with access to such libraries.

With the advent of the digital age, such barriers have been removed. Any person with an internet connection can, in theory, access research, replicate it and learn from it. Even more importantly, the space of ideas has expanded beyond measure. The primary impediment to its full mobilization is the lack of ‘open research’.

The move towards open research will bring many benefits.

True open competition regardless of borders or resources

In the internet age, open access manuscripts eliminate the barrier of the traditional subscription library.

Open access papers and manuscripts are available to all and therefore lead to extremely fast dissemination of new research and ideas. This is especially important for talented researchers in low-income countries where the resources to subscribe to expensive journals may not be available. Such researchers would, quite unfairly, be at a huge disadvantage relative to their peers in richer institutions in the absence of open access.

Any academic would be delighted to see their work reach a larger audience at faster speed and germinate new ideas in the widest possible pool of research talent. Open access allows true open competition in the realm of ideas, not just competition between the privileged.

Importance of open access to modern coding based research

In many fields, including economics, much modern research relies heavily on coding. This can be related to handling data and conducting simulations, but also form the standalone basis of software packages that researchers produce and indeed publish.

Many researchers now provide such code on their websites or repositories such as Github. Besides the crucial role that such open provision plays in transparency and replicability, new researchers are quickly able to get to the frontier of a particular research question by consulting and learning from such code.

This has the priceless advantage of driving the frontier forward at a much faster rate.

Open data

Open access datasets are recently becoming prevalent in economics and other fields, such as archaeology (eg the Journal of Open Archaeology Data). It is nearly always the case that researchers in their own fields and specializations have already used such datasets.

A natural question then arises: What is the advantage of posting such data publicly?

To answer this, it is important to appreciate that with public provision comes incomparable visibility and exposure to the full spectrum of ideas that researchers with different training can generate.

I have personally used publicly available data from archaeology in my own research, testing modern theories of urban economics with ancient data. This ESRC funded research is published open access in the Journal of Urban Economics. This is a first-hand example of cross-pollination of ideas across very different fields, made possible by open research practices.

Join the open access revolution

With open access we can contribute to advancing science at a faster rate. For the professional researcher, it opens new doors and maximizes exposure to ideas.

A move towards greater openness can only improve scientific outcomes.

If you would like to find out more about open research, head to Library and Cultural Services’ Open Research guide. For further support on open research, get in touch with Hannah Crago, Open Research Development Librarian.