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!

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