Transparency 2025: A panel discussion on new ideas to promote transparency in research*
This panel presentation was held on the last day of the conference and included short presentations and responses to questions by Professor Ginny Barbour (Director, Australasian Open Access Strategy Group), Dr Maura Hiney (Head of Post-Award and Evaluation Health Research Board Ireland) and Professor Frederick Leung (Professor in Mathematics Education, University of Hong Kong). Associate Professor Tracey (University of South Australia) convened the session.
Ginny Barbour started the session by stating that transparency is key to integrity and innovation in the future research ‘ecosystem’, which she described as ‘an interconnected, equitable, accountable, global scholarly ecosystem of well-curated, interoperable research articles, data and software supported by diverse open publishing models’. Ginny reminded the audience that open scholarship offers increased transparency in the dissemination of outputs, with benefits of increased availability and transparency of research data and related software, but there needs to be a focus on the underlying infrastructure needed for open scholarship. Ginny said that we need transparency in every stage of research, including planning, the research process, publication and post-publication. To ensure long-term, diverse approaches in relation to transparency we need policies, incentives, hiring criteria, support and tools.
Maura spoke specifically about open access publications, raising some of the concerns expressed by funders, including the rise in poor quality and predatory journals, as well as the often exorbitant cost of Author Processing Charges. She suggested that there is a need to develop sanctions for researchers who use unacceptable journals or publish in closed journals. Rather than relying on Plan S, Maura asked the audience to consider the types of incentives needed for researchers to publish open access, especially in the humanities and social sciences.
Maura stated that ‘Open Data’ has the potential to speed up the research process while simultaneously improving our confidence in the results. However, the access, use and curation of this huge and growing body of data presents many challenges in terms of the ability of researchers and institutions to curate complex datasets and make such that they align with the FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, reusable) principles. These challenges include:
- The cost of training and employing data stewards with appropriate skill-sets and ensuring that there are opportunities for career progression within the data field.
- Requiring data management plans is all very well, but do the researchers understand what is needed and have they access to adequate infrastructure to implement their DMP?
- Ensuring that open access data is not misused - move towards a governed access model (e.g. Scottish Public Benefit Panel).
- Rewarding people for good data management practice – credit in applications, other rewards?
- Getting public buy-in on decisions about data to drive policy and regulatory change.
- Ensuring the quality of the data – which circles back to training, infrastructure, etc.
According to Maura, the biggest challenge for funders is “understanding what initiatives will effect cultural change in the research community around ownership of research and outputs, and the benefits of data sharing and transparency”.
Our last speaker was Frederick Leung, who provided his perspective on transparency from the point of view of an educational researcher (a perspective which was almost absent at the conference where most of the presentations related to science and medicine). Frederick suggested that many education researchers are still skeptical about publishing in open-access journals and the proliferation of predatory journals has not helped in this regard. He also noted that the process of publication of findings in educational research is typically long and some researchers may fear that other researchers will publish papers based on the data before the researchers who originally collected the data get the opportunity. Furthermore, for many educational researchers, some data are voluminous, “thick”, multimedia, which is difficult to share. In terms of communicating research results, Frederick reminded the audience that many results of educational research are of interest to the public and so it is important to keep research findings accessible, and avoid using specialist/technical vocabulary. Having said that, Frederick warned that there is a need to educate the public on how to interpret the results of educational research, and in the case of qualitative research it is critical to describe the process as clearly as possible (that is, be transparent) so as to let readers judge whether the interpretation is reasonable or not.
The audience posed many questions related to transparency in research, and shared their perspectives based on their own disciplinary and/or institutional contexts. The panelists generously shared their expertise, covering a vast array of topics from developing research cultures, establishing incentives and institutional structures for transparency and debates around pre- and post-publication peer review.
*This summary has been collated from each of the presenters’ powerpoint slides.
COPE Council member, Tracey Bretag