‘We’re changing the behaviour of researchers and institutions…’

Ella Rhodes hears from Professor Marcus Munafò about a UK Repro funding boost.

A consortium of universities which aims to drive the uptake of open research practices has been given a funding boost from Research England. The UK Reproducibility Network (UKRN), made up of 57 local networks of researchers and university staff, 18 universities, and external stakeholders, has received £4.5 million from the Research England Development fund and £4 million from match-funding from partner institutions and organisations for the next five years.

Chair of the network’s steering group, psychologist Professor Marcus Munafò (University of Bristol), said that open research practices were becoming more of a priority for funders. He pointed to recent statements from G7 and UNESCO on open science practices, as well as the UK’s Research and Development Roadmap and UK Research and Innovation’s new open access policy. ‘This is definitely the direction of travel… for a number of different reasons. Partly because that transparency allows publicly funded research to be visible and available to those who funded it, which is obviously appropriate; but also, it allows those granular intermediate contributions to research to be recognised and that feeds into the work on research culture around how we can recognise diverse contributions to research rather than just the end product… it’s definitely something that’s only going to grow in importance over the next few years.’

Munafò said the funding will allow the UKRN to deliver training in open research practices to as broad a range of disciplines as possible, and to evaluate the uptake and impact of that training, as well as helping the network to work collaboratively to develop incentives which promote both the uptake of this training and engagement in open research practices. ‘One of the advantages of that collaborative approach is that we will be able to effectively coordinate this activity across the sector so different institutions are working in a broadly similar way. One of the features of our training will be that much of it will be delivered via “train the trainer” courses, so representatives from those institutions can come in and then deliver workshops on that topic back at their home institutions in a way that’s tailored to the needs of that particular audience or institution.’

Psychology, Munafò said, had been at the leading edge of promoting open research practices in recent years. ‘What we’re engaged in, effectively, is a kind of large scale behaviour change project – changing the behaviour of researchers and institutions by intervening at the level of the institution with the support of a grassroots community of local networks and plugging into our external stakeholder group of funders and publishers and learned societies. It’s very much a systems-based approach to behaviour change and of course that’s exactly the kind of thing that lots of psychologists have something to say about, so it’s definitely something where psychology has a prominent role to play… but what we’re trying to do is broader than any one discipline.’  

Munafò said the funding provided an exciting opportunity and emphasised that the work of the UKRN was an enormous team effort. ‘With these things a huge number of people are involved, both locally in terms of the people in finance who helped us put the bid together, and the consortium and the network and all of the institutional leads – the project is very much a team project, and I think the recognition needs to be of the team.’ 

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