Open Research

The HRB is committed to ensuring that its funded research is open, accessible and usable, so it can have the greatest possible impact.

There is a fundamental shift across Europe towards making research more transparent, collaborative, accessible and efficient. This Open Science movement is a strategic priority for the European Commission in research and innovation policy and an EU high-level Expert Group, the Open Science Policy Platform (OSPP 2016-2018) has been established to consider key implementation areas. 

Open Science is defined as "a new approach to the scientific process based on cooperation work and new ways of diffusing knowledge by using digital technologies and new collaborative tools.  The idea captures a systemic change to the way science and research have been carried out for the last fifty years: shifting from the standard practices of publishing research results in scientific publications towards sharing and using all available knowledge at an earlier stage in the research process" (Open Innovation, Open Science, Open to the World – a Vision for Europe, European Commission, 2016)

The emphasis is most often on providing access to published findings and to underlying data. However a wide range of activities come under the umbrella of Open Science, including Open Access publishing, Open Data, Open Notebook, Open Peer Review, and Open Education. Also included is citizen science, where non-specialists engage directly in research. Open Science goes hand-in-hand with research integrity, and requires legal and ethical awareness on the part of researchers. The EU Open Science Monitor shows the many different activities that can be considered part of this evolution in science and serves to track trends in areas that have consistent and reliable data.

The HRB is leading and supporting activities in Ireland related to the changing research process in a number of ways: .

Data Access, Storage, Sharing and Linkage (DASSL)

In 2016, the HRB published its report on ways to maximise the use of our national data assets. The full report and summary report entitled "Proposals for an Enabling Data Environment for Health and Related Research in Ireland" can be found in Publications

Ireland has considerable data resources in a number of fields which could be harnessed to advance medical treatments, enhance health service delivery and inform policy and planning across government and civic society.

These include:

  • Routinely collected health services data (e.g. see Catalogue of National Health Information Sources in Ireland, 2014) 
  • Disease registers (e.g. Cancer Registry) 
  • Survey data and cohorts (e.g. Growing Up In Ireland) 
  • Census and administrative data 

The fundamental question is - how can researchers and policy makers avail of one of our most valuable national assets i.e. existing data, and use such data in a safe, secure manner, protecting the privacy and confidentiality of the data subjects, and in accordance with existing legislation?

The HRB Data report presents a model for discussion called the DASSL model. The model allows for the safe usage and linkage of health and related data including administrative data within the Irish context. The DASSL model comprises seven elements – five related to infrastructure and services (a health research data hub, safe haven, trusted third party and data linkage service, disclosure control and a research support unit) required for safeguarding data, and two related to the broad legislative and socio-cultural context needed to facilitate implementation of the model i.e. governance and public engagement. 

Implementation of the DASSL model will allow for safe usage of currently under-exploited data which can help inform health and wellbeing but also serve national economic and social agendas.

The Report has been communicated at a number of information sharing events around Ireland. Two event recordings can be found below

The HRB are now progressing this agenda by funding a Proof of Concept of the technical infrastructure of the DASSL model. This project began in Q4 of 2019 and will run until Dec 2021.

EU National Point of Reference

The HRB covers the National Point of Reference (NPR) role for the EU Commission Network of Member States on Access to and Preservation of Scientific Information in Europe.

This role acts for key Irish Funding and Policy Agencies (HEA, IRC, SFI and HRB) in co-ordinating a joint response to the Commission on on the current state of affairs  related to the measures listed in the 2012 EU Recommendation Access to and Preservation of Scientific Information in Europe.  The key areas for reporting include:

  1. Policies for the dissemination of and open access to scientific publications resulting from publicly funded research
  2. Implementation of open access policies
  3. Policies for the dissemination of and open access to research data resulting from publicly funded research
  4. Preservation of scientific information
  5. Developing e-infrastructures underpinning the system for disseminating scientific information
  6. Ensure synergies among national e-infrastructures at European and global level
  7. Participation in multi-stakeholder dialogues at national, European and/or international level

Incentives and Rewards

Open Science is about improving the quality, accountability and social contribution of research.  The HRB expects that its open publishing platform, HRB Open Research, will help shift the focus in scientific publishing to practises that incentivise, recognise and reward good research. 

In 2017 HRB signed the San Francisco Declaration of Research Assessment (DORA) acknowledging the inadequacies of the Journal Impact Factor for measuring research quality and signaling HRB support for a research system move towards a culture where importance is placed on the intrinsic value of research.

National Open Research Forum (NORF)

Ireland has a responsive research system with a track record of competing successful in Europe. The HRB is working with other Irish funding agencies, policy makers, research performing institutions and library/ support sector within the National Open Research Forum (NORF), which is working to develop the national approach to Open Research.  The HRB acts as co-chair with the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and secretariat is provided from the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI).

This National Forum is seeking to develop common awareness of requirements, to make best use of existing capacity, to avoid duplication of efforts and inconsistences between the research performing and research funding organisations, and to ensure timely and efficient implementation of the open research agenda in Ireland.

Specific areas identified for attention include:

  • Revision and implementation of the national policy on open access publications,
  • Research Data Management (RDM) principles, policies and requirements
  • Research Information Management for open research
  • Recommendations for Research Data Repositories
  • Existing skills and expertise for open research

In 2019, NORF undertook a consultation process between September 0218 and May 2019 and published the National Framework on the Transition to an Open Research Environment in July 2019. This Framework has been endorsed by several governemental departments, agencies and higher education institutions.

The National Forum directly supports the implementation of Recommendation 4.7 of Innovation 2020 national research strategy to ‘Support national and European open access policies and principles’.

Open Access publications

The HRB supports the principles that knowledge derived from publicly-funded research should be made available and accessible for public use; should be subject to rigorous quality assurance through peer review; should be preserved and remain accessible for future generations and this must be done in a cost effective way. 

Within the Irish system there has been a long and strong movement towards Open Access for research publications. 

In 2008 the HRB first adopted a position on Open Access. This evolved to a mandatory policy once funded researchers outside of the main academic settings, in voluntary and teaching hospitals, medical charities, research institutes and health service settings, were guaranteed access to supporting infrastructures.

In 2012 the HRB led a national approach culminating in the National Principles for Open Access Policy Statement which outlines a framework for Open Access in Ireland, aligning policies across different stakeholders. 

In May 2016, the EU Competitiveness Council Conclusions  (made up of ministers of science, innovation, trade, and industrycalled for full open access to scientific publications in Europe by 2020.

Open Publishing

The HRB is keen to provide its researchers with a fast, cost efficient and high quality publishing service which is fully open and fit for the 21st century. Our open publishing platform, HRB Open Research, enables our researchers to immediately publish and share their findings in a fast, open and transparent way.

There are many benefits to publishing on HRB Open Research, even over other open access journals:

  • Fast:  Immediate publication means new findings can be shared without any delay.
  • Inclusive: Supports the publication of a wide range of outputs - from standard research papers, to data sets, from new insights and findings whether confirmatory or negative.
  • Value: The costs of publishing are covered by the HRB.
  • Transparent: Peer reviewer reports are published alongside the research, supporting recognition of reviewers as well as improving transparency.
  • Open: Authors, not editors, decide when to publish and what to publish.
  • Reproducible: The inclusion of supporting data facilitates reanalysis, replication and reuse and thus improves reproducibility of research.
  • Impact-focused: The use of research indicators allow authors and users to gauge the interest, reach, access and use of their research outputs.

We expect that our funded researchers, and other funders, will join us in our proactive approach to eliminate bias and research waste while simultaneously giving credit to peer reviewers for their work.

Research Data Management and FAIR Data Stewardship

The HRB sees access to and sharing of research data as central pillars of Open Research. The benefits from opening up research data for scrutiny and reuse are potentially very significant; including economic growth, increased resource efficiency, securing public support for research funding and increasing public trust in research. It is recognised that access may need to be restricted in order to maintain confidentiality, protect individuals’ privacy, respect consent terms, as well as managing security or other risks. The HRB is working to develop Research Data Management (RDM) principles, policies and requirements to stimulate good data governance and stewardship.

Openness implies more than just disclosure of data. All those engaged with research have a responsibility to ensure the data they gather and generate is properly managed, and made findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable by others. The HRB is partnering with the GoFAIR International team to build awareness amongst the research community of the FAIR Data principles (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable) and to support effective data stewardship.  The ongoing training partnership has delivered an initial 2-day workshop in January 2017 and a second workshop co-hosted with the HRB SPHERE Scholars Programme in December 2017.

In 2019, the HRB released a policy on data management - HRB Policy on Management and Sharing of Research Data. This policy comes into effect on 1st January 2020 for all funding calls launched on or after this date. The HRB will undertake engagement activities with research offices in Q1 of 2020 to go through the fundamentals of the policy and answer any questions.