Access All Areas – What is Open Research?

by Kerry Hope – Research Centre Coordinator

Being relatively new to the research community, it’s been a bit of a learning curve for me getting to grips with open research and the sharing options and potential implications out there. Now with a clearer understanding of the mechanisms involved in getting a paper published, I’ve summarised the essentials here for my own sanity and anyone else who may be in the same boat.


As an overview, ‘open research’ refers to openness throughout the lifecycle of a project. It includes:

  • open notebook science (i.e. making your research open all the way along)
  • making research methodology, software and code freely available
  • open peer review
  • open access to publications
  • open data


‘Open access’ has two key aspects: Free and immediate online access, and re-use rights (i.e. licensing).

Open access requires licensing that allows sharing and re-use. Articles published as paid open access often have a creative commons license. Creative commons licensing (you as author keep the copyright) is available at different levels, denoting how people can use your research. Typically more letters = more restrictive rules. Most funders require the ‘CC BY’ license (the most open option).

Benefits of making research open access include:

  • It is available immediately
  • Helps you make contact with people
  • People outside the scholarly universe can access it e.g. teachers, journalists etc. Being available to all means it can help change policies.
  • It is not hidden behind a paywall (which it will be if it’s not open access). A paywall restricts independent researchers, retired, developing countries whose libraries might not pay, etc.
  • People can confirm/test your research – stops duplication.

Creating a data management plan with the Open Research Team will ensure any concerns around confidentiality, publisher’s restrictions and coverage are dealt with appropriately.


Before a paper is peer-reviewed or published (a publisher will provisionally accept a paper, then it goes to peer review), it can be uploaded as a ‘preprint’.

Discipline-specific platforms for sharing such as or enable researchers to disseminate their work before it goes to a publisher*. Uploading to a preprint server increases visibility and allows authors to get feedback/foster collaborations prior to publication. When shared through a pre-print server, work is given a date stamp so your research/discovery is verified as your own at that point in time.

*Some publishers do not accept submission of a paper that has been shared on pre-print servers (you can check publishers’ preferences here) however, the Open Research team can sort all of this for you! Read on…


Symplectic is the University’s research information system… so, “why bother?” I hear you ask. Three reasons:

  • This automatically links to your profile on the University of Exeter website, showcasing your publications to the world.
  • Uploading papers to Symplectic is a requirement of the REF 2021 and UoE policies (within 3 months of acceptance).
  • Papers in Symplectic are automatically added to the ORE (Open Research Exeter) Repository.

You may not need to upload papers to Symplectic if your co-authors have already done this, you’ll just need to ‘claim’ the paper so you get the recognition too!

Nothing will be added to the public domain (ORE) without Research Services staff running various checks first. They will check any publisher and funder restrictions for you, and can set up embargoes as required. They will also pay for open access publishing (not taken out of your research grant), and will advise on licensing etc. for this. Finally, they will check you have acknowledged the appropriate grant award correctly, and included a data access statement (outlining the data situation) i.e. if the data is available upon request, or not available for data protection reasons etc.


Research repositories such as ORE give you long term storage and preservation of your research. They offer a permanent URL with meta data indexing, and act as a shop window for both researchers and their research institutions. Open Research Exeter is a moderated non-commercial repository, unlike platforms such as ResearchGate. This is similar to a repository, but acts as an academic social networking site, therefore meaning that permission from a publisher to deposit in a repository does not equate to permission to post in ResearchGate. As it is a commercial enterprise, there is no guarantee of the long-term preservation of outputs in ResearchGate.


Publishers will allow open access to your papers via their websites, but often require a fee for this service. This is sometimes known as ‘gold’ open access. As mentioned previously, funding is available to pay for this from the Open Research team, and more information can be found here.


As well as open access, your research can be shared through other channels also – to partners and collaborators (keeping them informed of the direction of your research), via presentations, conferences, traditional media such as radio, newsletters and websites, social media, societies, charities, special interest groups etc. This can really raise your research profile, but again, exercise caution and check with publishers or the Open Research team before putting anything out in the public domain prematurely, no matter how excited you are to shout it from the rooftops!

Summing up from my straightforward point of view, in the highly collaborative and interdisciplinary environment we are lucky enough to work in here at the University of Exeter, it inspires me every day to hear about the research that is happening. Sharing data and results (good or bad) means the research community can evolve more efficiently and make life-changing differences in the real world sooner, so I’m all for open research and the immediate impact it makes.

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