Open Scholarship Skills and Competencies

It is timely, that as part of developing our advocacy and engagement programmes, we look at embedding Open Scholarship skills training in a more structured approach. Already, events such as Open Scholarship Week have developed a more layered and thematic approach. Early indicators suggest the possibility of a credited module on Open Scholarship for researchers or adding Open Scholarship related content to an existing module or training programmes. 

Advocacy, training and community building has emerged from the Open Scholarship Community Galway, taking an informal Cafe approach. 

We also have strong opportunities to lead and partner, in publishing Open Educational Resources (OER) and also provision of skills training in area of Open Education resources. OER skills include areas such as: searching for content using OERS, designing and building an OERoer, issues connected with copyright and licensing, integrating with existing programmes. 

Nationally, NORF (National Open Research Forum) has published a draft landscape report, looking at progress and challenges in relation to the National Framework on the Transition to an Open Research Environment. A Working Group within NORF on skills and competencies has made a number of recommendations for a National Open Research Training. 

Some resources are already available, such as the FOSTER toolkit, which has skills content on areas such as: Open Science, managing and sharing data, open-source software, Open Access and more.  

There are other useful resources such as EOSC report on Digital skills for FAIR and open science. EOSC recommends: 

  1. Developing the next generation of FAIR professionals 
  2. IR and open science professionals 
  3. Collaborating to enhance digital skills for FAIR and open science 

Resources such as these have frameworks that could be useful if adapted locally or used in terms of defining what a national programme for Open Research could look like. 

NORF recommends an accreditation approach for participation in a national programme. There is currently no obvious way of developing a national accreditation system. The Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) might offer a route forward, but it seems worthwhile if IUA, HEA and CONUL should address best accreditation avenue, looking at areas such as incentives and awards such as digital badges. Maybe best to offer a local accreditation system, to encourage engagement and buy-in. Increasing funder requirements may also be a driver for engagement, too.  

A survey by the NORF Skills Working Group on current practice in December 2020 got responses from 23 institutions. All responses indicated some level of Open training. The group felt this practice could be integrated as a starting point for developing a national programme. 

However, structure and supports for Open Science are too varied currently. While there is a lot of interest and enthusiasm, there is no unified approach. NORF identifies some key challenges in relation to skills and competencies 

  • A need to strengthen and standardise training on open research, including a framework that defines the required skills-base and encourages a competency-based, consistent approach to training. Further work is required to investigate accreditation options.  
  • A need to factor in dedicated open research support roles in institutional staffing plans in order to improve local awareness, community building and uptake of open practices.  
  • Developing links to related agendas and activities e.g., national training on research integrity, could help to expand and embed open research skills among the research community. 

In terms of the way ahead, a national approach and perspective will avoid silos and duplication, and by the very nature of OPEN, encourage cooperative activities and research. Locally, strong institutional policies supportive of Open Scholarship, combined with community engagement and skills provision will always be necessary. 

Key challenges include the incentivisation of Open Research. Researchers have to be rewarded for using Open practices. Skills and advocacy programmes play a crucial role in fostering researcher knowledge and confidence. 

Niall McSweeney

This post was written by Niall McSweeney, Head of Research and Learning, James Hardiman Library.