The central theme of open research is to make clear accounts of the methodology freely available via the internet, along with any data or results extracted or derived from them. Much like open-source schemes that are built around a source code that is made public, and conducted in the spirit of free and open-source software, open research allows for more collaboration, participation, transparency and equality in the research world.
Historically, at the culmination of a research project, researchers published papers and reported their overall results and findings (and some supporting data), while the underlying ‘raw’ research data would remain unpublished. This data would usually end up in a lab or office, often on an obscure hard drive, and would become inaccessible soon after the completion of the research work. This was undesirable for many reasons, not least because those research findings were then difficult to reproduce, and carrying out an improved analysis proved impossible. In the world of constantly evolving software and technology, this is extremely pertinent – for example, data collected a few years ago can be re-analysed with current tools and result in far improved results. Many valuable raw data were lost through this negligence. Some researchers today still believe that digital files stored on hard drives are ‘safe’, yet this couldn’t be more wrong – digital file are just as (and in fact, more) fragile than physical objects and artefacts.
In recent years, modern technologies have come to researchers’ rescue, and now a much greater degree of flexibility is possible, in terms of both data management and data preservation. However, these all come with their own challenges.