Funders must mandate and reward open research records

UCL Cancer Institute, London.

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Transparent and responsible record-keeping is a pillar of high-quality research. Yet many scientists report that spending extra time on this practice sets them back in a game in which funders and institutions continue to reward pace and volume of publications — not quality.

Funders have the power to change incentives to support rigorous research. Together with Chris Chambers, co-founder of the UK Reproducibility Network, I have drafted a Universal Funders Policy that mandates and rewards the open deposition of all records associated with a publication.

Our proposal does not apply to all materials generated in the course of a project. To many, at least in the biomedical sciences, such a requirement would not be beneficial or pragmatic. It could result in a ‘data dump’ of limited value. Yet the bulk of a standard biomedical publication is based on smaller data sets that are often available only from the corresponding author ‘upon reasonable request’, a practice that hampers transparency.

For such a policy to be accepted and work long-term, its implementation route might find inspiration in Plan S developments: an initial phase of consultation with diverse stakeholders, followed by a transition period during which researchers and institutions prepare for the ‘new normal’. Finally, funders will need to enforce the mandate.

To change a game, its rules must change. Funders can make open science the norm and improve research culture in the process.

Nature 586, 200 (2020)

Competing Financial Interests

R.M. has an unpaid advisory position with ResearchSpace.

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