Exploratory study on ‘research on research’: actors and approaches
As part of the France’s second National Plan for Open Science, the French Committee for Open Science requested to conduct a study to pave the way for an Open Science Lab (LabSO) in order to better understand the international scope and context of research on research (RoR).
Purpose of the study
The study’s three main objectives were :
1. to identify the major currents in academic science studies in Europe and the Americas, and indicate the main institutional actors affiliated to each current while differentiating their approaches and methods ;
2. to put forward an open science workflow for analyzing qualitative and quantitative data through mixed methods and digital mapping to facilitate result uptake and communication ;
3. to make recommendations that draw on existing initiatives to help the French Open Science Lab position itself in the current RoR landscape
Mixed methods were used to draw up a qualitative and quantitative landscape of actors and approaches based on a series of thirteen interviews and a collection of data from thousands of thematically curated websites. Through a qualitative analysis of the interview data, the report gives a broad overview of evolving RoR research trends and shows how they intersect and interact with each other. Based on a quantitative data analysis, an experimental network was also constructed and annexed to the report with the idea of making existing links between different stakeholders (institutions, communities, initiatives, infrastructures) more visible, and recommendations about their roles (funders, projects, research centers, data providers, publishers, etc.) more compelling.
The report lays out different currents of research on research (RoR). Some are theoretically and methodologically rooted in traditional academic fields such as sociology, economics, political science, philosophy, or information science (bibliometrics and scientometrics). Others with more data intensive approaches come from computational social sciences or bio-medical fields, and have evolved in a favorable context for open science in terms of public policies. While the former currents are based on well-established pre-existing academic fields and methods, such as STS or scientometrics, the latter have appeared more recently, and have adopted a prescriptive, change-oriented focus as well as a normative commitment to foster better and more open science.
Far from presenting a static landscape, the study highlights the evolving nature of RoR research, the contemporary debates it is fueling around key issues such as reproducibility, evidence-based practices, integrity and inclusivity in research, and some community-issued warnings about not “reinventing the wheel”. The report specifically draws attention to new alliances that are forming between research centersand laboratories, funding institutions, policy makers and data providers in order to support public policy makers with evaluation tools and research protocols to guide decision-making
and action. The reports gives examples of key players, such as the Research on Research Institute RoRI Research on Research Institute, « RoRI Phase 2 : invitation to partnership ». Unpublished document consulted as part of the conduct of this study., which is currently advocating for tools, methods and data sharing within an international network of RoR research institutes.
By placing the roles of research infrastructures and data providers (publications, metadata, citations, etc.) at the center of the contemporary RoR research landscape, the study reveals the underpinning dynamics, and brings up sticking points for various stakeholders, raising the question of the balance to be found between them.