Open Access and researchers: interview with Gareth Knight

In continuation of the success we had during Open Access Week at the School, I thought it would be a great to ask a few members of both the library, research data team and faculty what their views are of Open Access today. Last week we had Antonio Gasparrini, Senior Lecturer in Biostatistics and Epidemiology. This week we have Gareth Knight, Research Data Manager at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

Gareth Knight, Research Data Manager

gareth_knightCan you tell us a bit about your role at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM)?
I joined the School in June 2012 having previously worked as a Digital Curation Specialist in the Centre for e-Research at King’s College London. I now lead the set-up of a research data management service. In this role, I support researchers who wish to create, manage, and share research data. This is provided through one-to one advice, online tutorials, and class-based training sessions. A large portion of my work focuses upon data sharing and helping researchers to consider and address the issues associated with it. This begins from the project outset, where they are planning data collection activities, to the end of the process, when they are preparing data for uploading to a digital repository.

Can you explain why Open Access is important?
Open Access is essential for ensuring scientific research is available to the people who need it. By ensuring that access restrictions are kept to a minimum, it plays a key role in the democratization of research. It is particularly important for researchers working in small, less well-funded institutions, as it enables them to remain competitive with larger organisations.

Do you support the premise that Open Access initiatives will lead to an increase in public understand of research? Why?
It is part of the solution. It improves research transparency by enabling people interested in the work to learn of its existence and access it. However, there’s still a need to present the content in a form that a non-expert can understand.

How has the new Open Access affected the use of research data management services at the School?
The implementation of OA policies by many research funders has played a key role in driving the adoption of open access initiatives in the research community. No one likes to be told that they have to do something, but the benefits that can be gained outweigh any extra work involved.

Similar progress is being made in the area of data sharing, although it will take a few more years until we start to see the widespread benefits that are provided by access to publications. Although research funders have made key contribution to this work, journal publishers such as PLOS and BMJ deserve credit for improving awareness of data sharing. Many of the enquiries I currently receive focus upon journal data policies and how LSHTM researchers can meet requirements to share the underlying data. Although there are several many issues that need to be addressed, particularly around participant consent and anonymisation processes, science as a whole will benefit from wider sharing of research outputs.

Readers can find out about research data services at the School from the Library

Our next blog on Open Access will feature an interview with David Archer, Head of Library & Archives Service (LAS).

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