Working with research institutions to implement DORA

By David Carr, Programme Manager – Open Research, the Wellcome Trust

The Wellcome Trust has published draft guidance for the research organisations we fund on implementation of the core principles of DORA.  It aims to help organisations develop and adopt meaningful changes to research assessment practices that instil the buy-in and trust of their staff, and to encourage them to be proactive in reporting their progress and sharing their learning.

Wellcome’s commitment to DORA

As a research funder, Wellcome is dedicated to maximising the openness of research outputs so they can be accessed and used in ways that will accelerate research and its application to improve health. Since we first published our Open Access policy in 2005, we have recognised that realising the full potential of open research requires a fundamental shift in the way researchers are assessed.

Wellcome was one of the first funders to sign DORA when it was launched in 2013 and have worked to embed its core principles in our grant-giving processes as. Specifically, we strive to ensure that researchers’ publication outputs are judged on their intrinsic merit and not on the journal in which they are published. We also actively encourage consideration of a broad range of research outputs in addition to publications, and other contributions – from training early career researchers to influencing policy and practice.

The specific steps we have taken as a funder to implement DORA are outlined in more detail in the earlier commentary piece I wrote ahead of the HHMI-DORA meeting on Driving Institutional Change for Research Assessment Reform last year.

As I highlighted there, changing these deeply embedded processes for research assessment will take time. We are very aware that despite the commitment that Wellcome and others have made, many researchers still believe that where they choose to publish their work makes a huge difference in how its quality is judged.

Working in partnership

Research funders and institutions each have pivotal roles to play in reforming research assessment. To be successful in driving change, we need the principles we have adopted as a funder to also be adopted by the universities and other research organisations that employ the researchers we support and make decisions on their career advancement.

For this reason, we introduced a requirement in our new Open Access Policy, which comes into force in January 2021, for organisations we fund to publicly commit to the core principles set out in DORA. We indicated that we may ask organisations to show they are abiding by these principles as part of our regular institutional audits.

Our new guidance

Our draft guidance seeks to clarify the types of actions we would expect organisations to set in place to demonstrate such a commitment.  It highlights three key expectations for our funded organisations – namely, that they should develop:

  • a public statement on their website to commit to the DORA principles
  • a documented plan for implementing the principles
  • a process for monitoring process in embedding the principles against an initial baseline

Beyond this, the guidance is deliberately non-prescriptive. It suggests a range of actions for organisations to consider in developing their hiring and promotion practices; engaging their staff; and managing and resourcing their implementation plan. It is left to organisations to determine the approach that will be most effective in light of their individual cultures, values, and ways of working.

It is important to emphasise that some universities we fund are already signatories of DORA and are taking active steps to implement its principles, whereas others are at a much earlier stage.  We hope this guidance will be of value no matter where the organisation is in this journey.

The guidance also actively encourages organisations to be proactive in sharing their learning and emerging good practice with each other and the wider community, including through DORA. The resources and activities being developed by DORA will be of enormous value in helping our institutions engage and share their experiences with other organisations around the world.  The HHMI-DORA meeting in October 2019 was a critical input to our guidance, which draws on some of the emerging exemplars and ideas that were highlighted by those who took part.

Finally, we are clear in the guidance that work to implement DORA in organisations should be integrated into wider efforts to enhance research culture and promote good research practice.  We are coordinating our efforts to develop this guidance, with a broader campaign Wellcome is running to Reimagine Research Culture.

Inviting feedback

We want to give our funded research institutions and the broader community a chance to help shape and develop our guidance.  We are inviting comments and feedback on the guidance via an online form on the website until 24 February 2020 and plan to publish a revised final version later in the Spring.

We hope this guidance will be a positive step forward in helping organisations to implement DORA and would greatly appreciate any and all inputs and ideas to help make it as effective as it possibly can be.

Guest blog posts reflect the opinions of the authors and not necessarily those of DORA.