Monday, 4 July 2022

Return of the York Open Research Awards

In this post Ben Catt, Open Research Librarian, announces this year’s York Open Research Awards recipients and shares an invitation to our Two Years On event on Wednesday 13th July.

York Open Research Awards 2022 logo; white and yellow text on purple background with University of York and UKRI Research England logos

As we reach the end of another academic year, we are pleased to announce the recipients of our second round of York Open Research Awards. This University-wide scheme ran during summer term, welcoming projects and initiatives from researchers across all disciplines, levels of study and career stages. 

The criteria and motivations behind the awards were similar to last year (see previous blog post). The purpose of this year’s scheme was, once again, to celebrate innovation, advocacy and good practice in open research whilst addressing and reflecting upon some of the issues and barriers faced by researchers who engage in such practices. What we mean by good open research practice is that different aspects of the research lifecycle are shared and accessible, helping to make the research process transparent and creating new opportunities for outputs and methods to be reused, reproduced and credited. The motive behind running another awards scheme was to continue incentivising and highlighting examples of good practice across the University, helping contribute towards a University research culture where open is seen as the default (see Open Research at York).

The proposal for this year’s awards was developed in collaboration with members of our practitioner-led Open Research Advocates network. As we reflected upon last year, it was important to have their input in the scheme from the outset. We also had an interdisciplinary judging panel which included a representative from each faculty at the University (lecturers from Environment and Geography and Education, the Research Development Manager for the Arts & Humanities) and an ECR rep - a postgraduate researcher from Psychology.

Open for submissions

UKRI Research England logo
Research England logo © 2022 UKRI (source)

Funding for this year’s awards came from a UKRI Research England grant for enhancing research culture. Open research has a key role to play in how research is valued, rewarded and incentivised, and we were successful in securing a share of this grant which has been allocated to the University as a whole to support activities covered by the Government’s R&D People and Culture Strategy. We set aside £200 for each prize, and took the same approach as last year by grouping the awards into categories for each faculty and by type of submission (research projects and advocacy or training initiatives). 

We also commissioned some York Open Research merchandise to help incentivise submissions, which involved some lengthy, but helpful, discussions with our central Communications Support team on the University’s new branding guidelines! We ended up opting for the simplest combination of fonts and colour palettes, and we’re in the process of embedding this new visual identity on our web pages and elsewhere. We purchased "Get involved in Open Research at York" tote bags, notebooks, eco-friendly pens and stickers, which we’ll also be offering at our Two Years On event next week (see below). 

York Open Research merchandise, including a tote bag, pen, notebook and sticker

Submissions were open for four weeks between April and May, during which we received 23 entries across nine departments (an improvement on last year, when we received 15 submissions across eight departments). We’d like to thank all those who submitted their work, as well as members of our Advocates network and others who shared information about the awards in their areas. 

Last year the judges were quite generous and decided that all the submissions were worthy of awards. This year’s submissions were strong, but the panel chose to exercise a bit more discretion and selected just 12 entries for recognition. This included seven from Sciences (mostly Department of Psychology), three from Social Sciences (all from Education) and two from Arts & Humanities. We had a good share of staff, postgraduate researcher and student awardees, including one third year undergraduate in Psychology. There was also a greater share of undergraduate and postgraduate submissions this year than last year, which was good to see.

A full list of awardees is available on our York Open Research wiki space, and in the following tweet thread:

Awardees include a postgraduate researcher-led open access journal in History of Art, open source tools in Biology and Chemistry, and several projects in Education and Psychology where workflows and methods have been shared openly through preregistration and other means. We will be working with our awardees to develop advocacy and training materials based on their work, hopefully including new additions to our series of  Open Research in practice case studies.

Open to ideas

We are keen to hear from members of our research community, including those who participated in this year's awards, with any suggestions on how we might be able to improve the awards scheme if it goes ahead next year.

For instance, we didn’t spend all the funds that had been allocated for prizes as we didn’t have any eligible submissions in certain categories, and the distinction we created between submission types (projects and initiatives) was difficult to determine in some cases. Next year we may reconsider our use of prize categories, taking into account the different levels of awareness and engagement which continue to exist across disciplines, and the need to further encourage open practices in some areas (see previous post on our summer 2020 survey).  

Quite a few submissions included lengthy descriptions of the research topic itself, whereas the judges were just looking for evidence of open research practices and principles in the work. We could perhaps revise the submission form to encourage more focused and relevant submissions. Another reflection is that the awardees announcement came later than planned, and ended up being the same day as the York Graduate Research School 3 Minute Thesis competition and a day before the YUSU Excellence Awards. If we are able to run another awards scheme next year then we should consider the timings more carefully to take account of other events such as these. 

An open invitation

    Open Research at York: Two Years On event poster; black text on cloudy sky background with University of York logo. Text reads: Wednesday 13 July, 2022 (11:00-13:30) The Treehouse, Berrick Saul Building; A lunchtime discussion for the University of York open research community of practice; What have we achieved, where are we going, and what challenges do we still need to address?

This year we have invited all the winners to attend York Open Research: Two Years On, an in-person event scheduled for next Wednesday, 13th July. Three awardees are contributing posters for the event, and four have agreed to do presentations, which should be a good way to share these projects with the wider research community at York. 

This will be a friendly and informal event for staff and postgraduate researchers, reflecting upon what we have achieved in the past two years as an open research community of practice and considering where we are going and what challenges still need to be addressed. The event will be hosted by Professor Sarah Thompson, chair of the University of York Open Research Strategy Group, and will include lunch and refreshments. 

You can find out more and register for the event here if you haven’t already done so. We look forward to being able to meet with our research community in person after two years of online events and Zoom meetings!

Tuesday, 22 March 2022

Challenging Perceptions: being anti-racist

 Celia Edwards is currently working for the Library as a Student Curator. (You can read 'Reimagining Africa' here, by her fellow Student Curator Kristen Harding.) In this post she describes the toolkit she's working on, which we hope to make available in the next week.  

When George Floyd’s death made headlines around the world in May 2020, it felt like a watershed moment in world history. Sparking the largest racial justice protests ever seen in the United Kingdom, the following months of campaigning, listening and learning highlighted the ‘covert racism’ experienced by so many in the UK. Now, almost 2 years later, how can we ensure our academic thinking is underpinned by anti-racist thought?

Using library resources, I’ll be curating a toolkit to help students take an informed, anti-racist approach to university level reading and research. While some of the texts we’ll use are classic works on racial equity and equality, others have been published within the last 6 months and offer new ways of thinking about racism in academia. 

Using these resources, we’ll look at the big questions that weave their way through every element of our university experience. How can we apply a critical, anti-racist framework to the study of historic academic texts? How can marginalised narratives be brought to the forefront of our studies?

These aren’t easy questions, but I hope the resources in this toolkit will go some way to answering them. Many of us bring ideas of how race intersects with gender and the past with us from childhood, and it's time to change this. To begin, we need to be informed and start thinking differently. 

About the Student Curator:

Hello! I’m Celia, a final year history student here at York. During the first COVID lockdown back in March 2020, I found myself drawing on the library’s online collection to keep me occupied and informed. Later that year, I moved to the States to study abroad for a year. There, I found myself relying on York’s collection yet again! A passion to share the library’s wide-ranging non subject specific resources with other students is driving my Student Curator project.

Wednesday, 2 February 2022

Reimagining Africa: A student curation project

By Kristen Harding, Student Curator 

In my second year as an English student in South Africa, our lecturer asked the class if we could point to Nigeria on a map. About one hundred faces stared blankly at the picture of Africa projected onto the screen ahead. To further prove her point, she asked us where Los Angeles and New York are, which we located almost automatically. It was a startling yet unsurprising realisation that we knew more about other continents than the one we were actually living on.

Photo: Africa on the globe by James Wiseman ( Reproduced under a Creative Commons licence (

My name is Kristen Harding and before moving to England to start my Master's in Film and Literature at York, I studied English at Stellenbosch University for four years. As I progressed through my studies, it became clearer that stories – whether from books, films, the news or the radio – play a huge role in determining what we know and don't know about the world. It's this, together with my own position as a person from Africa, that inspires my project as a Student Curator Intern in the library this term.

Over the next few weeks, I'll be curating a list of materials available in our library to promote a selection of African stories told by Africans themselves. This will be to shed light on the fact that Africa is much more than the bleak, homogenous continent that Western narratives make it out to be. I would also love for the collection to encourage us to reach for African work not only for educational purposes but also just for the value of a good story.

Making a consistent and intentional effort to engage with discourses outside of those that are dominant, has the potential to open our minds to new ways of seeing the world. So I hope that the books, films, articles, and other media I'll be sharing through this project will contribute to a reimagining of the African continent that is playful, queer, and even magical.

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Celebrating open research at York

 In this post Ben Catt, Open Research Librarian, talks about the success of this summer’s York Open Research Awards scheme which highlighted engagement with open research practices and principles across the University. 

Back in September 2020 the University Library submitted a successful bid for a £2,500 grant from Wellcome Trust to help develop an open research community of practice at York. As I explained in a previous blog post, the University is committed to supporting the values, principles and culture of open research whereby all aspects of the research cycle can be shared freely for others to reuse. A key element of this is ensuring that good examples from our research community are shared and celebrated, hopefully inspiring others to consider adopting open methods in their own practice. We decided that an awards scheme would be a great way to achieve this, and we were delighted to receive support for our proposal from Wellcome alongside match funding from the University Research Development Fund.

We can’t take credit for coming up with the idea of an open research awards scheme; University of Reading were probably the first UK institution to run such a scheme in 2019, which they repeated in July this year. Similar prizes have also been awarded by King’s College London, University of Bristol, University of Surrey and most recently our White Rose Libraries partners at University of Sheffield. A useful primer from the UK Reproducibility Network offers advice from awards scheme organisers at some of these institutions, and our initial proposal followed a similar model with the focus on running a high-profile showcase event for the winners.

A shift in focus

Plans for the awards were set aside until summer as we concentrated on other initiatives, including the formation of our Open Research Advocates network and organising two successful Open Research in Practice events; Software Sustainability in Practice and Open Humanities in Practice. We then decided to turn to our research community for their thoughts on our proposal (in hindsight, we should have involved them in our plans at an earlier stage).

Our Advocates network and academic colleagues from the University Open Research Strategy Group provided useful feedback on the need to carefully define the criteria by which submissions should be judged, bearing in mind the difficulty of comparing practices like-for-like and the disparate levels of engagement and issues surrounding open research in different areas (as highlighted by our open research awareness and engagement survey last year). Another suggestion was to focus on encouraging engagement in disciplines where open research is not common practice and to bring about wider benefits to the research community by developing eligible submissions into case studies for training purposes. 

With this feedback in mind we decided to refocus the awards as a less competitive and more inclusive opportunity to highlight projects and advocacy initiatives across disciplines. The idea was to recognise work that encourages dialogue, reflection and broader thinking about some of the issues involved in open research and barriers to its implementation. The prizes (£200 each) were split into categories by faculty and role (staff, postgraduate researchers and undergraduate students), thereby encouraging participation from a wide range of potential entrants. We also decided to set aside some prize money to use as additional funding for selected initiatives at the discretion of the judging panel, which comprised academic staff from each faculty and an ECR (Early Career Researcher) representative from the Strategy Group. 

A simple submission process was devised where we asked entrants to provide a brief description (no more than 1,000 words) of their research project or initiative, focusing on ways in which they have engaged with, reflected upon or advocated for open research practices and principles. They could also provide links to supporting materials, for example open access publications, open data sets or pre-registration documents arising from their work. The submission form was open from May 10th to June 4th and publicised through various channels including our recently-created York Open Research Twitter account.

And the winners are...

Fifteen submissions were received, covering a diverse range of projects and initiatives from across all three faculties and from researchers at different stages of their careers or studies. We received several submissions in some categories, but less entries than we had expected overall. The judging panel agreed to be flexible in how the prizes were distributed, and so we decided that all submissions were deserving of recognition. A full list of the projects and initiatives that were awarded can be found on our York Open Research wiki.

Several submissions were for open research advocacy and training initiatives, and the judging panel decided to award additional funding to two submissions based in Psychology. The first of these is Open Autism Research, a collaborative network encouraging open and reproducible practices in the field of autism research led by Dr Hannah Hobson. The network was launched at an online event in September attended by over 40 delegates from around the world and Hannah took the opportunity to talk about this at our recent Open Access Week showcase event, Open research across the White Rose Universities. The second initiative to receive funding is our local ReproducibiliTea journal club, who meet bi-monthly during term time to discuss diverse issues, papers and ideas about open and reproducible research. The organisers (who are all ECRs) are now planning events to expand their membership and exchange experiences with researchers across other disciplines. We look forward to seeing how both these initiatives develop in the upcoming year!

We are also working with researchers to turn their submissions into Open Research in Practice case studies, another initiative borrowed from the University of Reading. The focus of these case studies is on the experiences of researchers and lessons learned through their engagement with open research practice. The first set of these include Romans at Home, a collaborative outreach project with York Archaeological Trust led by Digital Heritage MSc student Eleanor Drew, and Covid Realities, a participatory research programme with low-income families led by researchers in SPSW. If you are a researcher based at York then we would love to receive your case studies to help inspire others to embed open practices in their work.

What next?

We would like to run the York Open Research Awards again next summer but we are still in a very early stage of planning. We welcome any thoughts from the research community on how the scheme could be improved, or suggestions on how to help incentivise and celebrate open research practice across the University. 

Please feel free to email the Open Research Team ( with your ideas and follow us on Twitter for updates on this and other #YorkOpenResearch initiatives.

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

A year in open research at York

Open research enables all aspects of the research cycle to be shared freely for others to reuse. Ben Catt talks about the rise of open research practice during the Covid-19 pandemic, and recent initiatives for open research at York.