Publish ideas from scholarly articles early, event told

Jisc Digifest hears openness could bring benefits, but some cite plagiarism risks

March 7, 2016
Man wearing 'I have discovered the secret of eternal youth' sign
Source: Alamy

Academics should be encouraged to openly publish all their research funding proposals, successful or otherwise, a conference has heard.

Jisc’s Digifest was told that free and early dissemination at every stage of the research cycle, including project ideas and experiment designs, would reduce duplication of work and enable scholars to find potential collaborators more easily.

Ross Mounce, a postdoctoral research associate in the department of plant sciences at the University of Cambridge, told Digifest that academics should consider “publishing the entire research workflow, not just the final outputs”.

He is a founding editor of Research Ideas and Outcomes, an open access journal that hosts material such as project ideas and funding proposals from all disciplines.

“Ninety per cent of research proposals never get to see the light of day: they just get rejected,” Dr Mounce said. “Even the research proposals that do get funded, we barely see any of this. We might just see a small abstract about it. So as a researcher wanting to find out what other people are researching right now or are going to do in the next six months or two years, I have no idea.

“This creates a lot of unnecessary repetition of work and loss of potential collaboration.”

Dr Mounce said that journals such as Research Ideas and Outcomes could help to reduce duplication and open up new partnerships. But reaction to the idea on social media was mixed, with fears raised that ideas could be copied if disseminated early.

“We can’t even get it to happen within our department; people are concerned that others will ‘steal’ their idea,” tweeted Fiona McKay, a lecturer in health at Deakin University in Australia.

Speaking to Times Higher Education, Dr Mounce argued that open publication at every stage of the research process could help to reduce plagiarism.

“By publishing your ideas, you are securing your ownership of that idea and it prevents plagiarism,” he said. “At the moment, we have a system where everyone secretly submits research proposals and they don’t know if someone has copied [them].

“Academics sit on panels for proposals, and if they read something and say ‘that’s interesting, that’s a good idea’, they can get it rejected and put the idea in their [own] proposals and go to a different funder and get funding.”

Dr Mounce added that academics should not be fearful of sharing work at an early stage, when it might not be as polished as a journal article. Such openness could allow for errors to be spotted and ideas improved early on, he said. 

chris.havergal@tesglobal.com

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

POSTSCRIPT:

Print headline: Scholars ‘should publish research proposals early’

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford will host a homeopathy conference next month

Charity says Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford is ‘naive’ to hire out its premises for event

Laurel and Hardy sawing a plank of wood

Working with other academics can be tricky so follow some key rules, say Kevin O'Gorman and Robert MacIntosh

Woman pulling blind down over an eye
Liz Morrish reflects on why she chose to tackle the failings of the neoliberal academy from the outside
White cliffs of Dover

From Australia to Singapore, David Matthews and John Elmes weigh the pros and cons of likely destinations

Michael Parkin illustration (9 March 2017)

Cramming study into the shortest possible time will impoverish the student experience and drive an even greater wedge between research-enabled permanent staff and the growing underclass of flexible teaching staff, says Tom Cutterham