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(Bonus) Nick's review of the year: open research, knowledge equity and Wikimedia
Bonus Episode3rd January 2024 • Research Culture Uncovered • Research Culturosity, University of Leeds
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In our weekly Research Culture Uncovered podcast we are asking what is Research Culture and why does it matter?

In this episode Nick Sheppard looks back at a year in open research, reflecting on some of the projects he has been involved with including the Knowledge Equity Network and a successful Wikimedia Champions project.

Nick is Open Research Advisor based in the University of Leeds Libraries and one of the Senior Leads for the Knowledge Equity Network.

Some of the topics discussed include:

  • How open research and knowledge equity are supported by Wikimedia
  • Benefits for universities of engaging strategically with Wikimedia in the areas of information literacy and research impact
  • A project to develop a series of 75 open research case studies across different disciplines and research methodologies
  • The Open Lunch series of virtual talks that explore different aspects of open practice
  • How open research relates to and is an integral part of broader research culture


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of Leeds Libraries Vision for:

So this quick podcast is to reflect on a year in open research, both for me personally, and across the University of Leeds and the wider sector.

olutely loads has happened in:

This very podcast was one of the initiatives supported by that group, with some funding for equipment and training with the brilliant Michael Sharkey who helped us to get over our initial fear. I think it was my colleague Ruth Winden who talked me into it along with Ged Hall, Tony Bromley and Emma Spary, my colleagues from OD & PL.

You can catch up with each of our seasons focussed on our own specialisms and interests with the playlists linked to this episode.

A major initiative that I’ve been involved with is the Knowledge Equity Network, co-founded by the University of Leeds and the University of Pretoria in South Africa.

The Knowledge Equity Network, or KEN for short, is a collaborative community of engaged institutions, organisations and individuals across the world and asks us to imagine a world in which human knowledge is shared more equitably and what we can achieve if we work together, collaboratively rather than in competition.

The Declaration on Knowledge Equity aims to capture our collective commitment and aspiration to reduce inequality by increasing access to knowledge and has to date been signed by 19 Higher Education Institutions, 32 Organisations and over 200 individuals across the world, representing 57 countries. You can find the declaration online, linked below in the show notes. If you agree with its principles, please add your name or get in touch if you or your organisation would like to join the Network.

I’ve really enjoyed working on KEN. Sometimes my job can perhaps feel a bit abstract, advocating the basic principles of open research or even, dare I say, bureaucratic...and to be honest, advising on data management plans will never be my favourite job. So I don’t always perhaps see the full impact of a research project unless I actively follow it up. Through KEN I’ve had the opportunity to meet colleagues from all over the world and to get a real insight to why open research and education really matters in countries that perhaps lack the resources and infrastructure of a relatively wealthy country like the UK. It’s also really important for us, and any university, to work more closely with our local community which is a theme that has come through strongly working with Pretoria where they have a strong focus on addressing youth unemployment and preparing students for the world of work and on enabling students to access Higher Education (with a focus on black South African students). Ultimately it comes down to the question of what a University is actually for which isn’t, or shouldn’t be, chasing rankings.

In terms of real-world impact, one of the organisations we worked with to develop the Declaration was Wikimedia UK. It’s fair to say that the global Wikimedia community has similar aspirations and has already made dramatic progress in facilitating knowledge equity through its various projects, infrastructure and global community. There is Wikipedia itself of course, the internet’s most popular information site, often among the top search engine hits for academic subjects.

Wikipedia is in fact just 1 of a number of interconnected free knowledge projects supported by the Wikimedia Foundation 17 at last count.

So Wikimedia Commons is a repository of openly licensed media files including photographs, diagrams, video and audio. Wikisource is a free library of out-of-copyright texts, while Wikiversity and Wikibooks encourage collaborative creation of open educational resources (OERs). The fastest growing Wikimedia project is Wikidata, a store of structured data that can be read and edited by humans or machines.

There’s huge potential for universities to engage strategically with Wikimedia with benefits in the areas of information literacy and research impact, sharing openly licensed text and images to improve Wikipedia, for example and linking Wikipedia citations to open access repositories.

It’s not just about benefitting a university in a purely instrumental way though and as the global commons, Wikimedia has a real potential to share knowledge and, crucially, enable everyone, anyone, to contribute. Just try a web search for your academic discipline or interest, no matter how esoteric one of the first hits will almost certainly be Wikipedia and many people won’t look past those first few hits. How accurate, comprehensive or well cited is it though? As an expert, you are uniquely placed to improve it. There are checks and balances though, look at the Talk page on an article and you’ll see that it has been assigned a grading based on the Wikipedia content assessment scale, ranging from stub, which is a very basic description of a subject, through start class, C, B, GA, which is good article status, right up to FA or Featured Article which means it’s passed an in-depth examination by impartial reviewers. It’s also fully transparent and any edit ever made is recorded with the user, or at least IP address, or who made the edit.

which ran first as a pilot in:

If you don’t know much about those subjects, as I didn’t, have a quick Google and you’ll find some of the champions’ contributions on Wikipedia.

With the support of staff at the University and a professional Wikimedian, Dr Martin Poulter, the Champions learned about Wikimedia and examined Wikipedia in their subject area, identifying areas of need and making contributions. As well as myself, the University team included Dr Joanna Brown from the Digital Education Service and Dr Chris Hassall from the Faculty of Biological Sciences.

lished a paper with Martin in:

I really do think that Wikimedia offers a unique collaborative environment to learn while contributing something of real value to global knowledge. An editathon for example, can focus on improving Wikipedia articles, adding citations or uploading openly licensed media from research articles, diagrams or technical illustrations, bringing together a community of researchers, students and citizens, to hone both research and technical skills as well as specific open practices and principles…copyright and open licensing or open access to ensure that information is available to the widest possible global audience. Or in terms of knowledge equity you can focus on translating Wikipedia articles. While English Wikipedia is the biggest there are over 300 different language Wikipedias globally, each with their own community.

What else has been happening?

Well I was sad to say goodbye to Dorka Tamas and Chris Cox, our PostDoctoral Research Assistants who have between them developed an incredible 75 open research case studies that you can find on the Library blog and in White Rose Research Online. We still need to do more work on these to explore what they tell us about open practices in different disciplines and Dorka wrote an interesting post for the Library blog with some preliminary analysis of the different research methodologies represented across the case studies...and I think this is a really interesting area to explore further with very different issues across quantitative and qualitative research for example, mixed methods or practice based, Participatory Action Research...

Four specific case studies have been repackaged in an online resource developed with the Digital Education Service that introduces the guiding principles and aims of open research and highlights the benefits. So that covers open access, open and FAIR data, open platforms, tools and services, an open approach to conducting research, transparency and public engagement and introduces open licensing and concepts like preregistration.

It’s got quizzes and space for reflection, so please do have a look at that, again linked in the show notes below.

joined both organisations in:

retention policy launched in:

Essentially rights retention supports researchers in retaining their intellectual property when submitting their research outputs for publication, rather than transferring it to their publisher. This means that accepted manuscripts can be made immediately open access from the White Rose Research Online repository without an embargo, so this is useful when the University doesn’t have a deal in place with specific journals to cover the cost of gold open access. You can find a list of these deals on the Library website...and it’s worth mentioning that this model of open access has significant implications for knowledge equity, and while, in the past, less wealthy institutions in the Global South may not have been able to afford subscription access to academic journals, now they may not be able to afford to publish their research in those same journals.

earch Culture Strategic Plan (:

Valuing diverse forms of research activity, that is Championing non-standard outputs through research communications, news and marketing

Embedding EDI principles in research practices, for example Allocating promotion support for researchers with protected characteristics underrepresented at senior grades

Mutually supporting and developing research teams, for instance, by developing and disseminating guidance on the responsible use of redeployment and short-term contracts

And of course enabling Open Research practices and along with my colleague Emily Goodall I will be co-chairing a group looking at open research training and resources, with one key deliverable to develop what we’re calling an Open Research Hub to share good practice and signpost support across disciplines.

Another related initiative covered by the Research Culture strategy is working with the Directors of Research and Innovation as disciplinary research champions.

Just to mention too that my fellow podcaster Emma is a keen bee keeper and if you haven’t listened to her episode combining research culture with the culture of a bee hive you really should.

the work that’s happened in:

Ultimately all of this depends on collaboration across the university and across the sector, across disciplines and across services, even within the Library, so our colleagues in Special Collections, Learning Development and the new Digital Creativity and Cultures Hub...across the university we’ll be continuing to work closely with Research and Innovation Services, Research Computing and OD&PL, across the sector with colleagues at other universities, UKRN, UKRIO and UKRI, internationally with KEN partners and SPARC Europe to name but a few.

There’ll be more open lunches and I’d like to explore open research in the curriculum, extending advocacy to undergraduates as well as postgraduates and their supervisors.

hopefully, to meeting you in: