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Global Thinking. ON-MERRIT recommendations for maximising equity in open and responsible research

Cole, Nicki Lisa; Reichmann, Stefan; Ross-Hellauer, Tony

Open and responsible research has the potential to profoundly alter the who, what, why, when and how of knowledge-creation. Yet it is not a destiny. The ways we implement change today will have long-lasting consequences for the kind of open and responsible research ecosystem we inhabit tomorrow. For that future to be one more equitable than today’s world, critical consideration must be given to the ways in which agendas of openness are shaped by those in positions of power and privilege, and might hence reflect or even reinforce global dynamics of inequity. 

ON-MERRIT is an EC-funded project to investigate dynamics of cumulative advantage and threats to equity in the transition to Open Research and Responsible Research & Innovation (RRI) across a range of stakeholder categories (in particular for those at the periphery) and multiple dimensions of Open Research, as well as its interfaces with industry and policy. Our results found many areas of concern, from which we identified four key areas of risk:

  • Resource-intensity of Open Research: Putting open and responsible research into practice requires considerable resources (including infrastructures, services, and training). The structural inequalities that exist within institutions, regions and nations, and on a global scale, create structural advantages for well-resourced actors and structural disadvantages for less-resourced actors, in terms of capacity and ability to engage in these practices.
  • Article-processing charges and the stratification of Open Access publishing: The article processing charge (APC)  model within Open Access publishing seems to discriminate against those with limited resources (especially those from less-resourced regions and institutions). These facts seem to be having effects of stratification in terms of who publishes where. 
  • Societal inclusion in research and policy-making: Open and responsible research processes take place within broader social systems where inequalities continue to structure access and privilege certain actors while others are disadvantaged. Despite laudable aims of equity, inclusion and diversity in open and responsible research, the most marginalised, vulnerable, and poor remain mostly excluded. 
  • Reform of reward and recognition: Institutional processes for reward and recognition not only do not sufficiently support the uptake of open and responsible research, but often get in the way of them. This disadvantages those who wish to take up these practices (putting early-career researchers especially at risk).
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