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Archive for the 'Research Skill' Category

Going a Step Further with Research Data: Open Scholarship at UCL

By Nazlin Bhimani, on 17 July 2020

Open Science, Open Research and Open Scholarship are synonyms of a new cross-domain approach to creating, sharing, evaluating, rewarding and curating research and education outputs.  ‘Open Scholarship’, the preferred term used at UCL, is underpinned by eight pillars and UCL is seen as a leader in Europe in Open Scholarship undertaking activity in all 8 areas. Its work is formulated in line with the recommendations of the League of European Research Universities or LERU’s  Roadmap for Open Science, produced in 2018.  The roadmap promised to bring exciting new opportunities for scholars and this blog post is an example of how one researcher has been able to embrace the LERU principle of FAIR data in UCL’s open research environment.

In this post,  Dr Constanza Gonzalez Parrao  writes about her experience of making her research data openly available in UCL’s Research Data Repository, and how she goes a step further in submitting a ‘data article’ in a peer-reviewed, open access journal.

As PhD students, it is sometimes difficult to increase our publications output and at least for me, the idea of publishing my work was centred on writing research papers only. However, in the last months, I have discovered that the publication road includes a variety of academic “products”, all of which can help to extend our research impact. For me, this process started with an email from Nazlin Bhimani, the IOE’s Research Support & Special Collections Librarian, inviting doctoral students to publish their research data and explore the option of producing an associated “data article”. At that time, I knew little about data articles but I had vaguely discussed with my supervisor the idea of making my data publicly available. I found out that data articles are shorter manuscripts that describe the data used in a research study so that other researchers can become aware of its existence and the potential use and re-use of the data. Data articles also enable us to publish parts of the thesis that would not normally be published in a research article, either due to the word-length limit or because the focus of the article is often not the methodology.

One of the chapters of my thesis is a systematic review of more than a hundred pages long, including the appendices. To conduct a meta-analysis, I created a dataset with information from a group of the primary studies included in the review. This constituted my data, which would have been “forgotten” if I had not taken the opportunity to look at ways to make this part of my research project more visible. After some guidance from Nazlin on the different stages and requirements of the publication process, I was able to structure this long research chapter into three complementary outputs to maximise its visibility: an open access dataset in UCL’s data repository, a data article and a research article in peer-reviewed journals.

My Data on UCL's Research Data Repository

           My Data on UCL’s Research Data Repository

UCL promotes Open Science or Open Scholarship and UCL’s research repository was set up to promote open data based on the FAIR principles so that data is Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable. I decided to publish my data to adhere to these principles, but also because in systematic reviews transparency and reproducibility are required standards. Preparing the dataset was straightforward but I had to make sure that I was explicit about its sources and because I wanted to make it readable for any potential user. This meant creating clear “meta-data” to describe the variables and values included in the dataset and a reference list of the primary studies used in the review. Once the dataset was ready, getting it published was simple and fast as UCL’s data repository web pages provide all the instructions.

One of the advantages of publishing our data is that it gets its own DOI, so there is a permanent address for others to find our data and if it is used, we obtain an additional citation! Getting a DOI is also important as peer-reviewed journals are increasingly asking for the DOIs for data discussed in a submitted article. Once the upload is approved, searchers can both view and download the data, share it via email, export its citation (in a BibTeX, Endnote, or other types of files), and even copy/paste a customised citation style. To see how a research data publication looks like, see my dataset here or search for it on UCL’s Research Data Repository

The preparation of the articles required a little more effort as the data article needed to complement the dataset and it could not overlap with the main research article. While the data article highlighted the main features of the dataset and its value for further research, the research article focused on the results and implications of the systematic review. This required some strategic planning, yet the idea that these outputs are directly and explicitly linked to each other is key, as it helps to make visible aspects of our research that often remain behind the scenes because, as mentioned above, we do not include them in traditional research papers.

Since I had published the data in an open access research repository, it was important for me to find an open access peer-reviewed journal that would publish my data article. This was a bit of a challenge and my first attempt resulted in the journal wanting a hefty amount of money upfront an article processing fee to make it open access. After some searching, I decided to submit my data article to the Research Data Journal for the Humanities and Social Sciences, which is an open access, peer-reviewed journal. I came across other options which are listed, here. Based on my experience, I recommend that you identify a suitable journal first before preparing the manuscript for submission.

Overall, this has been a rewarding experience because I discovered an area in the publication system that was unfamiliar to me, and I am sure that is the case for many students. Preparing these different academic “products” required some dedication and time but I now have one additional publication that is open access and two more underway from the same thesis chapter. More importantly, the process showed me a new way to maximise my research output and therefore, my research outreach. Further, it has made me aware of the importance of open access data. So, I invite you to think beyond the traditional research paper and plan how you could diversify your publications list and I invite you to join the world of Open Scholarship to make our research, including our research data, freely and openly available so that it can be interrogated and re-used.

Dr. Kusha Anand on information and digital literacies for life

By Nazlin Bhimani, on 7 November 2019

Dr. Kusha Anand, who took the Information and Digital Literacies in 2014, writes about her experience of the course and the long-term benefits of developing research skills.

About the course

A specialised course on what is expected of the literature review at doctoral level is an important addition as it allows one to gain insights into the dos and don’ts of searching and developing a systematic way of working with a huge digital library of subscribed electronic resources.  This blog presents my reflections on the course “Information and literature searching” (now aptly renamed ‘Information and Digital Literacies) given by Nazlin Bhimani. This course incorporated information and digital literacies and looked at ways of searching, finding, accessing, evaluating, managing and using literature.  It was delivered through presentations and exercises, with adequate time set aside for questions and answers.

Nazlin encouraged information searching in a structured manner so that we were able to map our keywords to our research topics, and after thorough systematic searching were able to add relevant literature to visual maps. By visualising our topics by keywords and then attaching the relevant literature, we were able to see the links from various keywords and concepts and fine-tune our research questions. In the process, we were introduced to the different information portals in order to find specific literature to the various themes.  Another area that was effective was the discussion on issues such as credibility of the research, its integrity, comprehensiveness and depth. This broadened my understanding of matters relating to scholarly communication (including authors’ rights and open access). I was also able to pick up some useful tips which I now find invaluable.

Engagement with the tutor

The course enabled me to understand the need to consider depth and scope and to prioritise my reading – I took the most important and relevant literature first rather than downloading lots of articles and not knowing where to start.  Nazlin also provided advice on numerous bibliographic management software tools and taught us ways in which we could stay current. The course showed me not only how to identify relevant literature but also how to evaluate it in order to gauge its usefulness for my research and to understand where the gaps might be.  This was important in terms of checking to see whether my research would be original and would be an addition to the existing knowledge in the area.

In addition, Nazlin has been instrumental in strengthening my understanding of literature searching and the types of resources available to me. Due to the complexity of my research topic, she offered to give me a one-on-one tutorial in which she elaborated on effective information/literature search strategies that I could use on the myriad search interfaces so that I was able to find relevant resources.


Overall, this course has benefited me enormously as I have so much more confidence in handling print and online information sources and this in itself adds to my mental wellbeing. The course has acted as a catalyst to my approach to information and literature searching and it has to be emphasised that these skills were not simply relevant to my thesis but are now being used in my postdoc work.