A new degree of openness for HRB-funded publications

Dr Mairead O'Driscoll, Interim Chief Executive at the Health Research Board comments on the HRB Open Access initiative.

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Today, we celebrate Open Access Week with the announcement of our new publishing initiative: HRB Open Research. Using innovative services provided by F1000, this platform will enable rapid and transparent publication of research results by HRB-funded researchers.

Our goal is to make it quicker and easier for grantees to disseminate their work, accelerating the translation of health research to improved patient care. In this way, we support the Core Principles of our strategy, and I will outline how.

Transparency, fairness, and accountability

As Ireland’s leading voice in health research, the HRB has a specific duty to ensure that decisions are supported by the best available evidence.  We believe this is best achieved through the public disclosure of all results, regardless of outcome – and that a failure to do so can have adverse consequences: exposing patients to unnecessary research, engendering misinformation, and skewing priorities in health research.

In response to these realities, HRB Open Research has been designed using the HRB’s core principles, with the cornerstone being transparency.  The platform will use an author-led open research approach where authors, not editors, decide when and what to publish. Published articles then undergo invited open peer where review reports (including referee names and affiliations) are published alongside the articles. The peer review model will be based on that already in use for several years on F1000Research, and for the last year on Wellcome Open Research.

By opening up this process, our intention is to promote transparency, fairness and accountability while building on our commitment to Open Access. We expect that our grantees, 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.

Collaboration and cooperation

As recognised in our Strategy, health research involves a very wide range of scientific, academic and clinical disciplines, as well as academic researchers, healthcare professionals, the education sector, the life sciences industry, patients and charitable groups. Unrestricted access to and reuse of research, including the underlying data (with due regard to legal conditions), combined with transparent peer review and commenting, supports the free flow of information across these groups as well as across national and international communities. By fostering collaboration in this way, we hope to inspire strategic partnerships across these spheres that work to maximise the benefits of research for health.

Like all knowledge, we highly value existing data and believe that its use and re-use can be of a wider benefit to society by informing the decisions we make.  HRB Open Research’s inclusion of the source data underlying the results will facilitate secondary analysis and replication attempts – generating more high-quality evidence to inform policy, clinical care, and interventions in addition to addressing the issue of research reproducibility.    

Value for money

HRB will cover the publication costs directly, so grantees don’t need to worry about Article-Processing Charges (APCs).  Still, it is worth mentioning that these charges (ranging from €123 to €818) are comparatively cheap compared with average APCs offered elsewhere

Blazing the trail

Change begins with leadership.  Our intention is to use our experience to influence national and European agendas in the areas of Open Research and more transparent publishing models. It is our expectation that HRB Open Research will help shift the focus in scientific publishing to practises that incentivise, recognise and reward good research. To support the introduction of HRB Open Research we have added our signatory to the San Francisco Declaration of Research Assessment (DORA).

The HRB wants our researchers to know that we actively support HRB Open Research. We encourage you to help us improve people’s health more efficiently by embracing Open Research and publishing on this platform.

I encourage you to listen to Patricia Clarke, Programme Manager & National Delegate for Health, talk about HRB Open Research in our introductory video, and read more about this initiative in a blogpost from F1000’s Managing Director.

Update 9 November 2017: You can listen to a 30-minute webinar about what HRB Open Research will mean for HRB-funded researchers at this link.