Openness and the Networked Researcher

On the 13th June 2013, I attended the 12th annual Postgraduate Research Association (PGRA) conference at Canterbury Christ Church University. The theme of the conference was around the notion of “Accessibility of Research“, the conference organisers were keen to:

…delve[s] a little deeper into the world of the academic researcher by seeking out your understandings of ‘The Accessibility of Research’ across the diverse disciplines in which you are working. The theme implies a reflexive approach to the work of the academic- engaging with the outside world to make their work available and accessible, and demanding availability and accessibility from their peers’ work.

Clearly the theme of the conference wanted to reflect the debate that is being had in UK Higher Education at the moment regarding the ramifications of the recently published Finch Report (2012). The Research Information Network (RIN) goes on to say:

The report made clear that several different channels for communicating research results will remain important over the next few years. But it recommended a clear policy direction in the UK towards support for ‘Gold’ open access publishing, where publishers receive their revenues from authors rather than readers, and so research articles become freely accessible to everyone immediately upon publication. At the same time, the report recommended extensions to current licensing arrangements in the higher education, health and other sectors; improvements to the infrastructure of repositories, and support for the moves by publishers to provide access to the great majority of journals in public libraries.”

My presentation, “Openness and the Networked Researcher“, wanted to explore how engaging with social media should be a critical skill for the 21st century researcher in building and maintaining their networks both in and beyond the University. During the session, I wanted the delegates to consider a range of tools, technologies and services that could facilitate and enhance the accessibility of their research and scholarly outputs within their own research contexts. The presentation and abstract can be found on CReaTE, this is Canterbury Christ Church University’s Institution Repository.

[slideshare id=22748251&doc=pgra-201313-6-2013wb-130610081056-phpapp02]

As a corollary to this, I noticed that the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) had published a report last year called “Researchers of Tomorrow” (JISC, 2012) which is the UK’s largest study to date on the research behaviour of Generation Y doctoral students (born between 1982 and 1994). JISC and the British Library jointly commissioned the three year study in 2009, which involved 17,000 doctoral students from 70 universities at various stages in the project. The research findings are quite disturbing:

  • Doctoral students are increasingly reliant on secondary research resources (e.g. journal articles, books), moving away from primary materials (eg primary archival material and large datasets).
  • Access to relevant resources is a major constraint for doctoral students’ progress. Authentication access and licence limitations to subscription-based resources, such as e-journals, are particularly problematic.
  • Open access and copyright appear to be a source of confusion for Generation Y doctoral students, rather than encouraging innovation and collaborative research.
  • This generation of doctoral students operate in an environment where their research behaviour does not use the full potential of innovative technology.
  • Doctoral students are insufficiently trained or informed to be able to fully embrace the latest opportunities in the digital information environment.

If this is the case, then as the authors of the study have bluntly remarked it “raises important questions about research development, training and support within research led organisations and the openness and sharing of research“.


Cann, A., Dimitriou, K. & Hooley, T. (2011). Social Media: A Guide for Researchers. London, England: Research Information Network. Available at:

Czuczman, K. (2006). A Networked Research Approach: A Guide to Conducting Research in a Network Setting. London, England: International Forum for Rural Transport and Development. Available at:

Finch, J. (2012). Accessibility, sustainability, excellence: how to expand access to research publications. Report of the
Working Group on Expanding Access to Published Research Findings. London: Research Information Network. Available at:

JISC. (2012). Researchers of Tomorrow. Bristol: Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC). Available at:

Minocha, S. & Petre, M. (2012). Handbook of Social Media for Researchers and Supervisors: Digital Technologies for Research Dialogues. Milton Keynes, England: Centre for Research in Computing, The Open University. Available at:

Mollett, A., Moran, D. & Dunleavy, P. (2011). Using Twitter in University Research, Teaching and Impact Activities: A Guide for Academics and Researchers. London, England: LSE Public Policy Group, London School of Economics and Political Science. Available at:

NSBA. (2007). Creating & Connecting: Research & Guidelines on Social – and Educational – Networking. Alexandria, VA: National Schools Board Association. Available at:

Quinnell, S-L. (2011). “Becoming a Networked Researcher – using social media for research and researcher development”. Impact of Social Sciences blog, 7.7.2011. Available at:

Weller, M. (2011). The Digital Scholar: How technology is transforming scholarly practice. London: BloomsburyAcademic.