OSF Preprints | A survey of funders’ and institutions’ needs for understanding researchers’ open research practices

Abstract:  A growing number of research-performing organisations (institutions) and funding agencies have policies that support open research practices — sharing of research data, code and software. However, funders and institutions lack sufficient tools, time or resources to monitor compliance with these policies.

  To better understand funder and institution needs related to understanding open research practices of researchers, we targeted funders and institutions with a survey in 2020 and received 122 completed responses. Our survey assessed and scored, (from 0-100), the importance of and satisfaction with 17 factors associated with understanding open research practices. This includes things such as knowing if a research paper includes links to research data in a repository; knowing if a research grant made code available in a public repository; knowing if research data were made available in a reusable form; and knowing reasons why research data are not publicly available. Half of respondents had tried to evaluate researchers’ open research practices in the past and 78% plan to do this in the future. The most common method used to find out if researchers are practicing open research was personal contact with researchers and the most common reason for doing it was to increase their knowledge of researchers’ sharing practices (e.g. determine current state of sharing; track changes in practices over time; compare different departments/disciplines). The results indicate that nearly all of the 17 factors we asked about in the survey were underserved. The mean importance of all factors to respondents was 71.7, approaching the 75 threshold of “very important”. The average satisfaction of all factors was 41.3, indicating a negative level of satisfaction with ability to complete these tasks. The results imply an opportunity for better solutions to meet these needs. The growth of policies and requirements for making research data and code available does not appear to be matched with solutions for determining if these policies have been complied with. We conclude that publishers can better support some of the needs of funders and institutions by introducing simple solutions such as: – Mandatory data availability statements (DAS) in research articles – Not permitting generic “data available on request” statements – Enabling and encouraging the use of data repositories and other methods that make data available in a more reusable way – Providing visible links to research data on publications – Making information available on data and code sharing practices in publications available to institutions and funding agencies – Extending policies that require transparency in sharing of research data, to sharing of code

How can publishers better meet the open research needs of funders and institutions?

“Publishers investing in simple solutions in their workflows can help to better meet the needs of funders and institutions who wish to support open research practices, research released this week by PLOS concludes.

Policies can be an effective solution for changing research culture and practice. A growing number of research-performing organisations (institutions) and funding agencies have policies that support open research practices — sharing of research data, code and software — as do publishers. Seeking to deepen our understanding of funder and institution needs related to open research, we surveyed more than 100 funders and institutions in 2020. We wanted to know if they are evaluating how researchers share data and code, how they are doing it, why they are doing it, and how satisfied they are with their ability to get these tasks done. Our results are available as a preprint along with an anonymised dataset….

Simple solutions more publishers could provide include:

Mandatory Data Availability Statements (DAS) in all relevant publications.
Across the STM industry around 15% of papers include a DAS. Since we introduced our data availability policy in 2014, 100% of PLOS research articles include a DAS.
Supporting researchers to provide information on why research data (and code) are not publicly available with their publications.
Time and again “data available on request” has been shown to be ineffective at supporting new research — and is not permitted in PLOS journals. 
Enabling and encouraging the use of data repositories.
Recommending the use of data repositories is a useful step, but making them easily and freely accessible — integrated into the publishing process — can be even more effective. Rates of repository use are higher in journals that partner closely with repositories and remove cost barriers to their use.
Providing visible links to research data on publications. Many researchers also struggle to find data they can reuse, hence PLOS will soon be experimenting with improving this functionality in our articles, and integrating the Dryad repository with submission….”