Weekly digest: what’s happening in open science?

Steph Macdonald

Featuring a patient’s perspective on the Health Research Authority’s transparency consultation, the launch of the Journal of Trial and Error and the call for ResearchGate to educate users on responsible content sharing.

Transparency – a patient’s view via NHS Health Research Authority

Researchers and patients are thought of as two distinct groups of people. However, as highlighted in a recent article by former radiographer Margaret Grayson, this is often not the case. After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, Margaret became involved in research as a patient advocate, working with the Northern Ireland Cancer Trials Network and Cancer Research UK. She started by sharing her experience as a patient, expressing her amazement at the level of knowledge displayed by her doctors with regards to choosing the most appropriate combinations of treatments/therapies, and by calling attention to the fact that this knowledge comes from patient data collected during clinical trials.

In her blog, Margaret highlights that, while investigators are experts in their subject or treatment area, patients are experts in living with their condition and should therefore be consulted at each step of a clinical trial. This consultation process will not only ensure that the methods used in clinical trials are acceptable and understandable, but also that the results are both accessible and transparent. She concludes by encouraging readers to take part in the Health Research Authority’s consultation on transparency and openness in healthcare.

Learning by trial and error via Journal of Trial and Error

Journal articles are often highly polished versions of a research story, overlooking the time taken and challenges overcome to generate the data presented. The Journal of Trial and Error aims to break down this bias by encouraging junior investigators to publish their negative results or methodological problems on a platform centred on the question ‘what went wrong?’. Articles submitted to the journal will be subject to a double-blind peer review, and those accepted will be published open access. Issue 1, focusing on sciences of the mind, is accepting submissions in the fields of molecular, cellular and cognitive neuroscience as well as engineering, cognitive and clinical psychology, until 1 October 2019.

ResearchGate and copyright compliance via The Scholarly Kitchen

Most academics and students will be familiar with, or will have used, ResearchGate at some point in their career. In addition to providing a platform for researchers to submit questions to a global audience, ResearchGate also offers its users access to a large number of journal articles free of charge. These articles are often uploaded by the authors, with little concern about any copyright restrictions. Although not all research outputs uploaded on ResearchGate are in breach of copyright, there are up to 7 million copyrighted articles freely available to download, leading some publishers to question the scientific integrity of the platform.

Seventeen publishers, including the American Chemical Society, Brill, Elsevier, Wiley and Wolters Kluwer, have come together to form the Coalition of Responsible Sharing, which is prepared to issue takedown notices for content violating copyright law and, in some cases, even to pursue legal action. However, some members of the coalition have questioned the sustainability of tackling the issue on a paper by paper basis and are advocating that ResearchGate adopts a more active role in educating researchers on how to share their work responsibly.