Governance structures for open research vary greatly depending on the nature of each research institution, however, there are common elements of governance that can be identified across organisations with mature open governance structures. Best practice governance structures incorporate both strategic and operational elements and representation across different areas of the institution. Effective governance must be supported by dedicated front line professional staff (often from the library services or the research office) to support researchers in open research practice.
Best practice mature stage open research governance includes the following key elements:
Support of open research at a senior level (such as a University Academic Board).
An institutional level steering committee, chaired by a senior champion within the institution and occupying a senior position within the institutional reporting structure, that oversees and supports open research policies, infrastructure and service requirements. This committee should have diverse membership including academics, professional and executive staff and should be representative of all research disciplines within the institution.
Department, school or faculty level committees or interest groups.
Program management, infrastructure and operational support (including liaison/collaboration with the library, data and information services).
Institutional level open research steering committees have several responsibilities, including:
Developing, implementing and promoting the institution’s open research policies
Leading public communication on matters relating to open research at the institution
Overseeing responses to sector consultations on open research
Providing recommendations and advice on information systems and other resourcing needs to facilitate open research at the institution
Reviewing the institution’s policy(s), position statement(s) and procedures to ensure compliance with external mandates and keeping step with best practice in the sector
Communicating and collaborating with other levels of governance (such as departmental/faculty committees and professional research support divisions)
Ensuring alignment of other institutional policies (such as those related to intellectual property, open access, copyright and data governance).
Transparency of open research governance is supported by a clear description of the governance structures that support the institution’s policy(s) and/or position statement(s) on open access as well as the publication of terms of reference and meeting minutes.
Compared to open access governance, open research governance structures remain rare, especially in Australia. In the absence of a formal governance structure that includes a dedicated steering committee, institutions can improve open research governance by:
Clearly communicating the roles and responsibilities of each key stakeholder (researchers, the library, senior institutional executives such as the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, research office, information technology services etc.) in the open research policy(s)
Having one or more senior champions of open research (such as the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research).
In addition to participating in open access at their research institutions, researchers, librarians and research support staff should become involved in external collaborations and groups. This includes researcher-initiated open research groups, networks or communities of practice that provide peer guidance and support of open access practice. This collaboration fosters current awareness and helps to ensure institutional and research practices are in step with best practice in the sector.
In Australia, open research governance is nascent, while open access governance is more developed.
Open research at Griffith University is championed by their Research Committee who, in November 2020, endorsed the university’s Open Research Statement. The university’s library support services facilitate this commitment to the practice of open research.
The QUT open access policy clearly outlines the roles and responsibilities of each major stakeholder. For example, strategic oversight lies with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Vice-President (Research) and the implementation of the policy and compliance is managed by the Vice-President (Administration) and University Registrar. The University Librarian has oversight of the institutional repository service. The responsibilities of researchers and higher degree research students are also clearly outlined.
The Cambridge University Open Research Steering Committee (ORSC) promotes and reviews open research policies (open access and research data management), ensures best practice, liaises with internal services and makes recommendations on the resourcing for open research. The ORSC is also responsible for public communications on all matters relating to open research at the university.
Membership of the ORSC consists of academic leaders as well as the heads of various professional departments including the Research Office, Library, Open Research Services, Office of Scholarly Communication and Information Services. The ORSC meets twice each academic year and the group remains in informal contact throughout the year. The terms of reference and meeting agendas and minutes are publicly available.
Support for the committee’s projects and activities is facilitated by the Open Research Operational Group, which reports to ORSC. The operational group is chaired by the Head of Research Services and membership includes senior professional staff and representatives from open research working groups.
Utrecht University in the Netherlands has a mature open research program, established in 2018 following the creation of a task force to explore how open science could be achieved at the university. Governance of the program has two main arms: the Open Science Platform (steering committee); and the Program Manager and team.
Membership of the Utrecht University Open Science Platform consists of prominent research leaders from a range of disciplines as well as an early career researcher. The head of the university’s Research Affairs department is also represented.
The Open Science Platform is supported by a Program Manager and Project Teams. The role of this team is to provide secretariat and operational services to the Open Science Platform. The Project Team are the leaders of the four Open Science Tracks at the university (open access, FAIR data and software, public engagement, and recognition and rewards).
The open research governance structure of Utrecht University emphasises the importance of support from the Executive Board of the University as well as connection with other innovation programs, services and faculties. An informative schematic of their governance structure is available in the Utrecht University Open Science Programme 2018-2021.
Direction and strategic guidance for open research at the University of York is governed by the Open Research Strategy Group (ORSG) who report directly to the university’s Research Committee. The ORSC makes recommendations on open research policy infrastructure needs and service requirements.
The ORSG is supported by the Open Research Operations Group (OROG) who work collaboratively with various stakeholders and funders to support open research practice. The strategic (ORSG) and operational (OROG) arms are supported by a professional Open Research Team which includes an Open Research Manager, library staff and open research specialists who provide direct guidance and training to researchers.
Open research governance at the University of York is also supported by departmental open research interest groups and clubs which facilitate local promotion and discussion of open research practice.
The Australia and New Zealand Open Research Network (ANZORN) is a collective of research and research-associated workers that aims to facilitate and promote open research practices. ANZORN currently has four chapters (Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and New Zealand). Each chapter is self-governed by a volunteer steering committee or an interim coordinator, and has a published code of conduct.
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