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 6 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

Doctoral study can seem like a 24-7 endeavour, but don't ignore these other opportunities, advise Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman

Matthew Brazier illustration (9 February 2017)

How do you defeat Nazis and liars? Focus on the people in earshot, says eminent Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt

Improvement, performance, rankings, success

Phil Baty sets out why the World University Rankings are here to stay – and why that's a good thing

Warwick vice-chancellor Stuart Croft on why his university reluctantly joined the ‘flawed’ teaching excellence framework

people dressed in game of thrones costume

Old Germanic languages are back in vogue, but what value are they to a modern-day graduate? Alice Durrans writes