Nikki Dreste and Drew Gitomer, Rutgers University
Kevin Crouse, Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office
Open science approaches the scientific process with a focus on open exchange and spreading knowledge freely and immediately. This open exchange and dialogue around research methods and findings leads to better scientific inquiry and, ultimately, improved social outcomes.
Yet the assumption that research should be accessible and available to those best suited to apply it in their work is still often unmet. The open science movement has tried to rectify the situation in several ways, including through high-quality, open-access journals and platforms for improved collaboration.
In last year's winter issue of The Digest, we introduced the Use of Research Evidence (URE) Methods Repository, an open resource for research methods used by the URE community. Through the Repository’s features, disparate methods can be explored, engaged with, contributed to, shared, and strengthened. In this blog, we discuss what brought us to this point, what our goals are moving forward, and how the community can help bring those goals to fruition.
Why share methods?
Researchers do not design methods within a vacuum. Most research projects build on work others have already investigated, use methods that complement the existing knowledge base, or extrapolate from prior iterators of similar approaches. Important details of methods that can help explain the nuances, strengths, and limitations of the current investigation are also often unavailable in traditional publication formats.
These were several of the primary reasons that led us to build the URE Methods Repository, which includes a Collection of research methods housed in the Open Science Framework (OSF) platform as well as a companion site to guide independent engagement and use that is specific to the URE community. This site includes flexible templates, document import and export tools for OSF, written and video library tutorials, and a curation of exemplar scholarly URE works. With this structure in place, we have already facilitated the important work of individual researchers and research teams, research-practice partnerships (RPPs), and long-term, ongoing research efforts both domestically and internationally.
As an open science initiative, we work to make the URE Methods Repository as usable and useful as possible not just to researchers, but to students, practitioners, funders, and other actors who could benefit from it. To this end, the Repository was purposely built for a number of use cases.
Achieving stronger, better research
We believe that the URE Methods Repository has the potential to help build stronger, better science across the many disparate disciplines that examine research evidence use—such as education, nursing, social work, criminal justice, and medicine, to name a few. Our goal is to develop a research commons in which members of the broader URE community can make use of the collective expertise embodied in protocols, resources, and each other.
We also want to include more contributors who are not traditional academic researchers publishing in high-impact journals and make space for those coming from a range of methodological traditions and roles, such as active members of RPPs and those who bring critical perspectives to the URE domain.
We know that achieving such a vision is challenging on multiple levels: What processes and norms need to be developed to both maximize participation and contribute to the quality of the field? The answers are not obvious, and there are a number of hurdles and tensions that also need to be addressed, including:
URE Methods Repository needs you
We do not have the answers to these questions, but we know that the creation of a community-centered resource must be co-created by the community. Indeed, the project has become what it is now, not just as a result of our team’s own reflective and iterative work, but through feedback from early adopters, recruited beta testers, two iterations of advisory boards, and critique from current contributors.
As we continue development, we would like to invite additional insight from the URE community to develop best practices that meet these challenges.
In short, we would love to hear from you!
If you are interested in helping us to further improve the Repository, we have developed a brief Qualtrics survey to solicit feedback, which you can find by clicking here. You can also contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with us on Twitter @uremethods for more information about our project.