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Flavio Azevedo
Community, Education, Trainees and training

Open scholarship pedagogical communities

Flavio Azevedo on how they can help ECRs overcome individual and structural challenges in academia.

03 January 2023

Open Science is the idea that all knowledge should be openly shared, transparent, rigorous, reproducible, and accumulative (Parsons et al., 2021). While the open science movement accelerated the adoption of better research practices, disparities and social injustices in research culture remain a persistent and largely ignored issue (Azevedo et al., 2021). In addition, current academic structures around science communication, prestige-based funding, and teaching and mentoring practices perpetuate power imbalances and exploitation of privilege by failing to address key issues salient to marginalised social and geographical contexts.

These barriers are especially detrimental to first-generation and early career researchers, hindering their progress (and permanence) within the academic system. Here, I reflect about how Open Scholarship Pedagogical Communities can help ECRs face individual and structural challenges in academia by providing them with a low-entry point into improved research and pedagogical practices, learning and training opportunities, and an inclusive and diverse environment.

What is Open Scholarship?

Open Scholarship is a natural evolution of Open Science, extending to all disciplines and knowledge systems, including those which might not traditionally identify as science-based (e.g. qualitative science, the humanities, indigenous knowledge). While often used interchangeably with Open Science, Open Scholarship includes all scholarly activities that are not solely limited to research such as teaching, mentoring, and service (Azevedo et al., 2019). Most importantly, Open Scholarship is explicit about the imperative of inclusivity, diversity, equity, and accessibility as necessary conditions for improving the way we practice science.

Academic structures around science communication, prestige-based funding, and teaching and mentoring practices perpetuate power imbalances and exploitation of privilege by failing to address key issues salient to marginalised social and geographical contexts.

Open scholarship is a way of looking at (open) science from a more humanistic perspective, as a tool that marries rigorous and transparent research with the need to redress gaps and inequalities in who can be a part of it, and benefit from it. To mitigate inequalities in who can access and produce scientific content, it is paramount to create conditions for knowledge to become a public good – accessible to everyone.

The FORRT framework

With this in mind, the Framework for Open and Reproducible Research Training (FORRT) was founded to advance four goals:

  1. to advance research transparency, reproducibility, rigor, and ethics through pedagogical reform and meta-scientific research;
  2. to work with educators to build a pathway towards the incremental adoption of open scholarship practices into higher education;
  3. to generate a conversation about the ethics and social impact of a higher-education pedagogy that emphasises openness, epistemic pluralism and uncertainty, and research credibility;
  4. to promote a reflection about the perceived importance of different academic activities (teaching, mentoring and service vs. research) and advocate for greater recognition of open educational resources.
     

We realised these goals by providing a pedagogical infrastructure and didactic resources designed to support (and recognise) the teaching and mentoring of open scholarship, and advocate for greater diversity and democratisation of science as a means to increase society’s scientific literacy, consumption, and participation. Today, FORRT is composed of over 500 scholars across a range of disciplines, career stages, geographical locations, backgrounds, and identities who share our vision of embedding rigor, transparency, and research integrity into higher education to ensure long-term improvements in research quality and culture.

We are hard at work to foster an inclusive culture of open scholarship and the FORRT community has already produced many open educational resources & meta-scientific articles. Together, we have developed several tools to support open scholarship, including a consensus-based glossary of over 250 open scholarship terms (Parsons et al., 2022), a bank of ready-to-use lesson plans and activities (Pownall et al., 2021), and a comprehensive but straightforward, evolving, and accessible didactic framework to learn, teach, and mentor open scholarship. We have also conducted a systematic review of the impact of open scholarship on students’ outcomes (Pownall et al., 2022) and produced a position statement aiming to bridge the Neurodiversity and Open Scholarship movements (Elsherif et al., 2022).

We have also developed resources to support open scholarship in academia. These include a pedagogically-oriented and effect-based catalog of 250 replications and reversals across social sciences; a collection of over 300 peer-reviewed summaries of open and reproducible research literature and diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion work. We have also produced a comprehensive list of over 75 syllabi, teaching and mentoring materials and more than 800 curated, FAIR, and searchable resources in open science. It is our hope that these initiatives comprise a knowledge infrastructure that contributes towards greater diversity and democratisation of science, and improved scientific literacy, consumption, and equitable participation for citizens, students, early career scholars, and academics.

Pedagogical Communities for Open Scholarship

But FORRT isn’t alone in this mission. The proliferation of the so-called Pedagogical Communities has been promising development in the open scholarship movement (Azevedo et al., 2021). Pedagogical communities are grass-roots initiatives – often led by early career researchers – that play a crucial role in fostering an inclusive culture of open scholarship by instilling new and improved values and norms. Pedagogical communities not only facilitate education about open scholarship principles, but as they are very much research-inspired communities, they press on the boundaries of ‘traditional’ science and push its members towards a science that could be – but isn’t yet.

Pedagogical Communities are often at the forefront of developing novel approaches and solutions to long-standing non-collaborative, closed science practices. For example, discussions around representation, participation and leadership of researchers from low-to-middle income countries in Open and Big-Team projects are being spearheaded by ABRIR (Advancing Big-team Reproducible science with Increased Representation). In a similar vein, Nowhere Lab elevates and expands academic efforts towards inclusivity by offering a lab meeting open to all who don’t have a lab experience (e.g. new faculty, ex-academics, people in toxic labs, or keen undergrads). For instance, the Feminist Wonderlab is tackling issues about power, positionality, and intersectionality, while the SPARK Society is promoting the professional development of historically excluded scholars of African American/Black, Latina/o/x American, and Native American heritage.

Pedagogical communities not only facilitate education about open scholarship principles, but as they are very much research-inspired communities, they press on the boundaries of ‘traditional’ science and push its members towards a science that could be – but isn’t yet.

There are also networks focused on promoting the principles of Open Science. The ReproducibiliTea Network helps researchers create local Open Science journal clubs at their universities to discuss diverse issues, papers and ideas about improving science, reproducibility and the Open Science movement. The RIOT Science Club provides training in Reproducible, Interpretable, Open, & Transparent Science. The Open Scholarship Knowledge Base (OSKB) is a collaborative initiative to curate the what, why, and how of open scholarship. Crowdsourced Replication Project (CREP) provides training, support, and professional growth opportunities for students and instructors completing replication projects. Meanwhile, several pedagogical organizations are working on the integration of principles of transparency and reproducibility in the quantitative methods like Project TIER, the Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences (BITSS), the ReplicationWiki, and the Reproducibility for Everyone.

These communities maximise the likelihood of present and future engagement with open scholarship ethics, norms, and resources, facilitating the acquisition of knowledge and bolstering opportunities that would otherwise be inaccessible to disadvantaged individuals. Open Scholarship Pedagogical Communities break the boundaries of academic fields and geographical locations to advance social justice, making the movement more diverse and representative of the needs of academics. When it comes to advancing transparency, reproducibility, and rigor, Pedagogical Communities offer cutting edge answers to the larger normative shift taking hold in academia.

Despite the different missions and scope of initiatives, all these pedagogical communities are working towards integrating open scholarship principles into higher education while contributing to advancement of research transparency, reproducibility, rigor, and ethics through pedagogical reform. Pedagogical communities offer many benefits for all career stages (but especially early career researchers), disciplines, and research areas. They offer a low-entry point into improved research and pedagogical practice and provide a much-needed environment to share individual experiences, and identify common challenges. This helps scholars to iteratively enhance their pedagogy, allowing them to better address the unique challenges ensuing from curricular reform and novel educational methodology.

These communities also facilitate the co-creation of open scholarship educational materials, which are crucial in easing its integration into higher education and reducing the burden placed on educators, thereby effecting change. Taken together, pedagogical communities fill in existing gaps to ensure long-term, future-proof, and sustainable change toward embedding training in reproducibility, research integrity, and ethics into academia and higher education.

About the author

Flavio Azevedo is a political psychologist, Fulbright fellow, and postdoc at the University of Cambridge Social Decision-Making Lab. His research focuses on ideology, how to measure it, and its role in political behavior and in justifying social and economic injustices. At Cambridge, Flavio focuses on uncovering the ideological basis of anti-scientific attitudes and conspiratorial thinking. Flavio co-founded and directs FORRT. Twitter: @Flavio_Azevedo

Further information

If you are interested in FORRT activities, please consider joining our community’s Slack where we announce new projects, build community, and steer our org’s mission. Please also consider checking out our getting involved page, subscribing to our newsletter, reading our peer-reviewed publications, and following us on social media (Twitter or Facebook)

Key sources

Azevedo, F., Liu, M., Pennington, C.R., Pownall, M., et al. (2021). Towards a culture of open scholarship: The role of pedagogical communities. BMC Research Notes, 15(1), 1-5.

Azevedo, F., Parsons, S., Micheli, L., et al. (2019, December 13). Introducing a Framework for Open and Reproducible Research Training (FORRT).

Elsherif, M.M., Middleton, S. L., Phan, J.M., et al. (2022, June 20). Bridging Neurodiversity and Open Scholarship: How Shared Values Can Guide Best Practices for Research Integrity, Social Justice, and Principled Education.

Parsons, S., Azevedo, F., Elsherif, M.M. et al. (2022). A Community-Sourced Glossary of Open Scholarship Terms. Nature Human Behaviour, 6(3), 312-318.

Pownall, M., Azevedo, F., Aldoh, A., et al. (2021). Embedding open and reproducible science into teaching: A bank of lesson plans and resources. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology.

Pownall, M., Azevedo, F., König, L. M., et al. (2022, April 8). The impact of open and reproducible scholarship on students’ scientific literacy, engagement, and attitudes towards science: A review and synthesis of the evidence.

Pownall, M., Talbot, C. V., Henschel, A., Lautarescu, A., et al. (2021). Navigating open science as early career feminist researchers. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 45(4), 526-539.