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.

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


Print headline: Scholars ‘should publish research proposals early’

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Assistant Recruitment - Human Resources Office

University Of Nottingham Ningbo China

Outreach Officer

Gsm London

Professorship in Geomatics

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

Professor of European History

Newcastle University

Head of Department

University Of Chichester
See all jobs

Most Commented

men in office with feet on desk. Vintage

Three-quarters of respondents are dissatisfied with the people running their institutions

students use laptops

Researchers say students who use computers score half a grade lower than those who write notes

Canal houses, Amsterdam, Netherlands

All three of England’s for-profit universities owned in Netherlands

As the country succeeds in attracting even more students from overseas, a mixture of demographics, ‘soft power’ concerns and local politics help explain its policy

sitting by statue

Institutions told they have a ‘culture of excluding postgraduates’ in wake of damning study