Burden of open research (s03e17)

Burden of open research (s03e17)
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This is a transcript - listen to the original podcast on Anchor.

[00:00:00] Chris Hartgerink: Hi, and welcome to the Open Update. I'm Chris Hartgerink for Liberate Science, joined by Sarahanne Field, here in Berlin still,

[00:00:05] Sarahanne Field: Hello.

[00:00:07] Chris Hartgerink: though we're recording all of this in one day and sharing those episodes so she's not been in Berlin all these.

[00:00:13] Sarahanne Field: I've been in Berlin for two months. Yes.

[00:00:16] Chris Hartgerink: So we've been doing this entire series of episodes on the history of open science over the past decade, how we've experienced it, and also looking forward into the magic crystal ball about what we want to happen in the next 10 years.

And one of the things we ended the last episode on was also this question of does the burden of open science or open research or just in general, improving research practices fall mostly on early career researchers or junior researchers.

There's an argument to be made that most of the research that gets published gets done by junior researchers. 20% or something of junior researchers end up getting tenure. So there's also a four to one for junior researchers to tenured researchers. The masses , the labor force is also primarily junior researchers.

So from that we might logically conclude that yes, most of the burden of improving research practice falls on junior researchers because they are the practicing researchers. But with that, I think Sarahanne, you had some ideas around this. I've already very quickly scratched the surface that I think yes, that is the case.

Now that you're sort of, you're transitioning from junior to mid-career researcher, do you feel like you're being unburdened then in terms of improving research practices?

[00:01:42] Sarahanne Field: The thing is that I never felt pressure in the first place. I found meta research, fell in love with it, and have committed myself to acting, thinking, speaking, practicing in a certain way. Coming back to, to the theme of this series, this idea of, looking back and, and looking forward, I think we're in a different generation now. I think the generation maybe you and I began our research trajectories within, I think it was a different story to what it is now.

I think we're seeing a lot of the ECR starting to mature into roles where they are teaching, supervising in large groups of students, whereas 10 years ago, a lot of us were, were just starting. Obviously, the meta researchers that we engage with, they're coming from all different, you know, career stages.

But I get the sense, from my own experience, my knowledge that a lot of people have who are now teaching and now supervising, have grown up in a world a, a research sphere where meta research openness is a little more commonplace.

So I think we have a different burden now. It is not so much the burden of learning those practices ourselves, but it's the burden of passing those on. I find it very exciting. I find that responsibility very important. It's one that I take really seriously. I do think that that previously a lot of the burden fell on the ECRs, and I wonder if looking forward if that's still gonna be the case.

[00:03:17] Chris Hartgerink: If I understand correctly, because the practices have become more established, that it's no longer as much a burden for the people who grew, quote unquote, "grew up" academically with this, and now the burden is more sharing that knowledge and upskilling.

From my experience, it's junior researchers who are at the end of the open science policies that get implemented. They're the ones responsible for ultimately publishing the open data, making sure everything is correct, everything is up to date, figuring out how, if there is a mistake, how to update it, creating, understanding how, get repositories work and how you could sync them with Zenodo. Something, the PIs might not even know anything about, so that the junior researchers really are the ones handholding the senior researchers.

This problem of the lack of training trajectories in implementing these open science policies because it ends up on the professor's plate and they just, Throw it onto the junior researchers, figure it out.

We had this, when I was still at Tilburg University, there was a data audit procedure and it was like, there is now a data audit procedure. They phased it in. But I mean, if you're not subjected to part of the pilot period, you wouldn't get any additional training. And then subsequently at the very end, you know, I had to supply data packages for audits for each of my dissertation chapters. And nobody even actually mentioned this before I was done. So if I had not done this practice myself already, I would have to catch up, at that moment. So there's this point of all these policies getting implemented, but the training not being there, and I think there's also literally this question of what are the training needs as a result of these policies?

[00:05:17] Sarahanne Field: This comes back to something you said last episode. The communication, the clarity of communication, being really essential. When you start a PhD, at least in my experience, you. There's, there's so much onus on the beginning, getting your idea for the papers set up, if you're doing it by, by publication, getting the proposal approved, getting the idea, you're excited about this idea.

The, the absolute last thing as a PhD, new PhD candidate that you are thinking about is what your data package at the end of the end of the whole process is gonna look like and how you're gonna do it. This comes also back to onboarding, you know, when it comes to, to keeping your practices responsible and open.

Just being really clear with, with new researchers as they come into the business, to sort of make it super clear what's expected of them and keep that in the back of their minds. Coach 'em as they go through. Remember, we've just finished a paper. Keep in mind that you are gonna need a folder. For this data, these materials, the README or the code book or whatever, that's gonna need to be in your data package when you submit, before you can defend.

But one tension I think is the fact that the PI tends to be the one that signs off for responsibility of a lot of research in labs that gets conducted, but they're often not the ones who are making the protocols, putting them online, collecting the data, making the metadata. That's something that I think is sort of a little bit in tension at least sometimes.

[00:06:57] Chris Hartgerink: Interesting that you see that as tension, because I would like when you say this, I'm, I'm detaching this from the academic environment for a second. The supervisor on a factory floor is responsible for everybody on the factory floor. Yet there, this is not an, not quote unquote "an issue" because it's very clear that there's a certain responsibility and that processes need to be in place to ensure that.

That you can't just say, well, I didn't know because you, you're responsible for it. So you have to know. So in that scenario, you have to put in place processes to make sure that you know, and if you don't, then that's, that's the failing of the supervisor on the factory floor. And I think it's the same in an academic setting. 'cause there's so much just. Do X, do Y, but there's no reporting back or ensuring documentation, insufficient places that decisions get documented, that there's consistent evaluation procedures. So in that sense it definitely will amplify any of those frictions that exist, well exist because the, the procedures are lacking. I would argue that's not too hard, but the culture is very much laissez-faire. Like you figure it out, we'll do whatever. And I think this is also part of the problem that we got to earlier with the, with the policies and the implementation is, you know, all of this, it's not a static thing. You can read a policy document once, think you understand it, just like a law, but the law and the, then the policy keeps changing and I think there's a certain responsibility.

To, for organizations to indicate what is changing, how it is changing, and then also certain, responsibility to then, you know, pass that information on. Maybe the defense regulations change a month before you submit your dissertation, you're still subject to those new regulations or new policy. There needs to be a mechanism to get informed about that, whether that is the supervisor, like instructing all the supervisors, Hey, don't forget, instruct your PhDs that this, this, and this was changing otherwise your timeline might be at risk or that there is a clear mechanism for that information just to be shared, university-wide.

And so in that sense, all to say is, are there sufficient procedures and quality assurance processes pretty much in place to make sure that when stuff changes, the burden is accounted for somewhere. Because if you don't plan for it, what, what is the famous saying? If you don't plan for success, you plan for failure or something,

[00:09:51] Sarahanne Field: You accept failure or something like that? Yeah. Yeah.

But I think what you're saying, a lot of that can just be boiled down if you want to, to communication, right? Regular communication. Clear communication. Fair communication that goes both ways.

That comes back to sort of my, my thoughts or my concerns about. ECRs being lumped with a lot of the work of responsible conduct of open research.

I don't, I mean, obviously the issues with equity exist. Giving an ECR a lot of this extra methodological work, for example, or this extra labor is, is problematic in itself. But I think is also the problem of the fact that it's not communicated clearly at the start that that's even necessarily their role.

There's no expectation management really there. So when things have to be done because of a university policy, for example, or some requirement, it's like, oh, here's that work. It's foisting it off onto them, or, or passing the buck to them rather than that being, you know, an, an agreement at the start of.

Supervision or at the start of some kind of working relationship discussion about whose role is then I would argue as someone who's a strong proponent for widespread responsible conduct of research that it's each researcher's individual responsibility and in that sense that the responsibility is uniformly distributed across a research team.

But there's an extent to which that that can't always be the case. So for example, in big team science, Not every single person can be reasonably expected to have gone through all of the aspects, for example, of an analysis, especially if it's not their specialization, if they can't understand that analysis well. There are exceptions to that of course, but I'm saying as a general rule in a supervisor student relationship, for example, that responsibility being equally divided, you know, the person who has to sign off on the research has a responsibility to know what the subordinate or the student is doing.

And the student who is doing a lot of the research needs to, there needs to be clearer communication. They are also responsible, but they're, you know, in that relationship, they have a shared responsibility.

[00:12:06] Chris Hartgerink: I hear you on the individual responsibility and of course like Almost a communal responsibility towards each other. There's of course always the flip side of sort of what is the system they're in precarious positions, overload of students, overflowing with teaching responsibilities. So there's also that aspect of, are sufficient resources available to do all of the work, or is the amount of resources or the amount of work that's required, is that already more than the work week to begin with?

So there's also a certain aspect there where literally respecting the work hours and being realistic in the estimates and the planning would be worthwhile. I personally feel if you allot four hours of supervision time, every week , it should be clear that they should only be allowed to supervise a certain amount of students on their own. If they're supervising with two people needs to be clear what the division is, whether it's 50 50 or not, and then really manage and plan that time to say, okay, you now have five PhD students at a hundred percent capacity. That means that half a week is already gone for the entire year, like you need to plan for that. So then if you have 20 hours a week of teaching, that's it. Nothing extra anymore, but taking that kind of resource management seriously isn't done because the gaps would be astronomical because I mean, how many PIs do you know who supervise more, more than five people?

[00:13:44] Sarahanne Field: You, you hear this? I mean, PhD students. To saying, oh, I, I don't get even ever able to talk to my supervisor because they just don't have time. They have too many students. You hear this? That's all the time.

[00:13:55] Chris Hartgerink: That's already a problem big enough, because that literally means figure it out. Whether that's open research practices or just in general how to do anything. And I know situations where people were literally delayed with getting their PhD for. I don't know, six months a year, because they just hadn't read the latest version that only needed to be edited for, you know, minor sentence or minor corrections.

[00:14:20] Sarahanne Field: I, I think that's, that's certainly a thing that going forward has to be addressed better. This comes back to the, the kind of research culture that the research reform movement is trying to develop is, is things like this that make the workplace an acceptable place for junior researchers to flourish and to develop. You know, I mean, we get super high attrition and part of that is things like this.

[00:14:46] Chris Hartgerink: This also immediately goes to the core of the issue, right? Because if we, again, dissociate from the research space for a moment, it's about there's a certain amount of labor energy. And if we manage that effectively, the gap would become very clear and the exploitation would become very clear how you're not getting compensated for the amount of effort you're putting in.

So if you do overtime at an organization that is gonna benefit somebody else, if you're not getting paid for it. Within research, we very often say, but it's my passion. We're internally motivated. And that's how you balance it out, and then you might get some reputation for it Instead, if you, you know, you become a professor Wow. And you get a PhD. Wow.

It's not an accident that this management of the time and the, the planning for it is not built in. And so there is this question of are we gonna recognize that this is not a problem that came unintentionally, but it's by, not any individual's design, but it is an intended effect and that is not gonna go away by accident either.

[00:16:00] Sarahanne Field: So what you've just said is extremely dark to me, partly because it's so recognizable and it's so endemic. The whole idea that this is an intentional thing. That, that it's not an accident. You know, the idea that a, a university relies on the fact that people don't tend to do the math and stick to it. That is especially dark for me because I personally feel like I have the confidence to be able to deal with this in my workplace.

I feel like I'm confident enough and self-assured enough that I can make my own boundaries in my workplace. But, coming back to sort of the overarching theme of this podcast season, when you have someone who's acting in a work relationship where they are subordinate based on their, their say, their career stage. For them being able to manage the expectations of their supervisor. It's not a trivial thing for them to say "I'm, I don't want to email you on the weekend." If for, for so many, for example, first or second year, PhD researchers, that would be an incredibly difficult line to draw in the sand and say, these are my boundaries. I'm gonna defend them.

Even just making those boundaries in the first place clear would be very scary. Let alone defending them, especially if you have a supervisor who wants to be violating them. So I think that is something as ECRs it's, it's really difficult to navigate these toxic problems in, in the academic sphere because it is so just, it permeates everything.

Our, our whole sort of culture, how we mentally deal with the workload, what our expectations are. But again, just coming back to this sort of sub theme is a micro theme of, of this clarity of communication, expectation management.

[00:17:53] Chris Hartgerink: It's not all doom and gloom because there's also plenty of work in that space where it's like responsible conduct of research, role modeling. It's Dr. Tamarinde Haven, for example, about this work on, well, role modeling really matters. If the PIs have pre-registered work or pre-printed the PhD candidate is more likely to do that behavior as well. Whether that's because of teaching or bio osmosis or whatever, that's irrelevant, but it is a relation there. That could be very similar with respecting just private time, planning your work properly.

It makes a lot of sense. PIs end up very often not always being bosses and mentors as well. You learn certain behaviors from them. How do you do certain things? Because supposedly they're present. Not all of them are, but they have the skills that you're trying to learn, so it makes sense that you learn them from them in a certain way. And so, especially PhD Candidates, very often for people it's their first step into a certain work environment that goes beyond just literally being a student.

Sometimes it feels like people who are in those positions, they don't recognize that they're role modeling regardless. So also indeed having that space for them to understand what kind of role model do I want to be is incredibly important. But yeah, if you're running 10 PhD students a month like you don't really have much time except if you really plan for just doing that.

[00:19:26] Sarahanne Field: That is why I am excited and optimistic, maybe more than is warranted about, say, the next 10 years, and why I don't think necessarily that stagnation is a, a big risk in a lot of ways is that I see so many of my cohort, for example, people that I did my PhD at the same time as who are now walking into faculty positions who are starting to supervise students.

Their approach to these things, their philosophy about conducting research, about the research culture that they wanna see different. There are so many mindsets here that are really positive that will be passed, even just osmotically down to the next generation of researchers. I'm really excited about that and I know that there are loads of great supervisors in our supervisors generation, for example, who are now full profs or even emeritus. They also had great mindsets, but I think, I do believe that there is a culture shift here that is slowly starting to creep into some, some ways of working, maybe not always successfully and meaningfully and, you know, with longevity.

But I do see positive change and I guess I have to be optimistic about that if I wanna stay in academia.

[00:20:38] Chris Hartgerink: Well, I'm glad that we balance each other out in that sense because I think that for, for me personally, of course, I'm outside of this environment, so take everything I say with a grain of salt. But On an individual level, I can agree. On a systems level, I sometimes feel like the the friction is getting more and more amplified.

So that it doesn't matter as much what the individual can or wants to do. Not to say they can't make a change. I think in that sense, you know operating based on your principles can really have a ripple effect. So there's always motivation to do it even when it's difficult. But yeah, I think I'm a bit more pessimistic, but I'm happy to be proven wrong.

So I always say I'm a hopeless optimist. I don't think things are going well, but I'm always optimistic that we can do better.

[00:21:28] Sarahanne Field: Again, we. We really should organize a podcast for the 10 years in the future and see, you know, where we end up.

[00:21:37] Chris Hartgerink: So if you want to sign up for the Zoom on, what is it?

[00:21:41] Sarahanne Field: 2034

[00:21:44] Chris Hartgerink: Then you know, find no zoom link in the, in the show notes,

[00:21:49] Sarahanne Field: Hopefully we've moved on from Zoom in that period of time.

[00:21:54] Chris Hartgerink: Google Meet.

But I think that we probably are, are best at rounding up with with this episode. So there's lots to say about early career researchers, junior researchers really outnumbering senior researchers. Maybe in 10 years that won't be the case anymore. Maybe funds will be distributed differently. Maybe, professorships will be more widely used as long as you get the responsibilities of supervision, which I know that people are trying to get towards.

But in essence, there's lots of work to do. And so if there's anything that people feel like should really be trained for junior researchers, like they should be provided more resources to do. We'd be very happy to hear those. We'd very happy to share those out because there's plenty of people shifting into supervisory positions that can use clear and communicative resources to get started as we discussed last episode.

Thank you for joining another episode of the Open Update. We'll put the link to the signal group in the show notes so that you can share any further thoughts that you might have.

Otherwise, thank you for tuning in to the open update.

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