Why I signed DORA

A DORAat10 Local Event Report

In May 2023, DORA celebrated it’s 10th Anniversary with two plenary sessions and a decentralized weeklong program of local events organized by community members from around the world. Event organizers were given the option to write brief reports on their events that summarize key takeaways and recommendations.

By Liam Bullingham and Nicola Wylie

Recent discussion on DORA mostly concerns the 2,800 organisations (universities, funders or publishers) which have signed, not the 20,000 individuals. See positions like, ‘Why have Elsevier committed to Leiden but not DORA?’, ‘We as a funder expect you to assess research following the DORA principles’, and ‘how should universities that sign be held to account?’

It’s understandable – organisations have much more agency to bring change and carry greater responsibility than individuals. But this means the community voice is lost, and DORA was started and grew from its individual signatories.

‘Why I Signed DORA’

We encouraged panellists and attendees to sideline their employer’s position and focus on their own morals, principles, or beliefs.

Our researcher panel drew from different disciplines and career stages. It was comprised of:

  • Dr Rob Farrow, Senior Research Fellow in the Institute of Educational Technology, Open University, UK

…and all from Edge Hill University, UK:

‘What does DORA mean to you?’

Rob questioned the binary nature of signing, and whether we sign up to everything in the Declaration or just have a particular focus in mind when we do. Michel noted he hadn’t signed DORA until a few days ago, but was surprised to see how embedded its arguments already are in the wider community – many DORA principles are commonly held across psychologists in 2023. But signing helps us ‘put our money where our mouth is’. Costas recently signed too, simply because he didn’t know individuals could do so. But like Michel, many of these views are already held by him. He criticised obsessions with ‘top’ journals, or whether titles are indexed in Scopus. Poor or questionable research can be indexed too! Rebecca works in policing research. For her, many key journals are community-run and focus on local agendas, so can be overshadowed by big international journal titles or brands. DORA provides a framework to challenge this and move towards equal respect or recognition across disciplines. Signing DORA as an individual puts weight behind influencing wider change. Linamaría considered the range of different outputs you can have as a researcher, and the need for these to be recognised equally alongside journal articles. This is sometimes called ‘bibliodiversity’ and variety in scientific outputs is highlighted in DORA. Space for this diversity is really important for her as an early career researcher (ECR) as she hopes to gain recognition for the wide range of research she is doing.

‘What do you think DORA has achieved?’

Rob mentioned we have a better REF because of DORA. He noted that the way REF assesses ‘quality’ in research outputs deliberately de-couples the venue of a journal article from any assumptions about its quality. Rebecca is reassured by the positive influence on research funders. Funders now consider a wide range of factors when assessing research quality, with less emphasis on publication lists. Instead, more inclusive methods such as Narrative CVs are being drawn on. This is something that Linamaría is pleased to see too – she believes it will empower ECRs.

Audience feedback

Edge Hill PhD researcher Elizabeth Devine ran polls for us during the session, to help us understand where DORA stands in 2023. We share results and comments of the polls below.

During this poll, two people echoed Costas’ remarks that they didn’t know they could personally sign. Another supports DORA personally without signing because their university hasn’t supported DORA. Someone else never thought to sign because they aren’t an academic. In response, Liam offered his opinion about why research supporters are a part of scholarly communications and should feel they can sign too.

In an attempt to identify areas for action, we also asked participants what could be done to influence organisations to follow the DORA principles more. Some themes emerging from these responses included:

  • funders can influence practices by including training or requirements
  • accountability to DORA responsibilities and awards/recognition
  • prestige attached to high impact journals
  • improve the agency of individual DORA signatories
  • using assessment methods in a wide-ranging, better-informed way over singular metrics
  • improve researcher training
  • better publisher practices and repository infrastructure

We continued by asking participants about opportunities and challenges in research assessment, with response themes emerging around:

  • Responsible metrics and subjectivity weighed against the need for ‘simple’ measures
  • Support from research leaders
  • Re-use of research as impact
  • Open research and bibliodiversity
  • Opportunities from generative artificial intelligence
  • Collaboration between organisations
  • Fairness for ECRs, different disciplines, research in languages other than English

Prompted by the audience, we discussed CoARA and noted that unlike with DORA, individuals can’t sign as individuals, which is a challenge as new initiatives flow from the DORA legacy.

A view from Lancaster

Unable to join us for the event, a senior researcher from Lancaster University offered:

“As a woman in science, even a well-cited one, I have been told by more than one senior (male) colleague that I publish some ‘rather good work’ in some ‘lesser’ journals. I have been asked to consider the impact factors of journals by more than one (male) Head of Department. And there remains a bias on Journal Impact Factor (JIF) in the internal evaluation of publications to be selected for REF, despite the feedback from panel members that they do not take JIF into account (and I believe them).

I truly do believe that we, as scientists, should interrogate the evidence – the published work – and make our own independent judgements on its quality or academic impact. And if we wish to make a broader societal impact, we must be supported to publish non-REFable book chapters and to publish in those journals with lower JIF, but which are more likely to be read by users of research. I would hope that Lancaster’s emphasis on engagement makes us well positioned to be leaders on issues such as those raised by DORA.”

Haley Hazlett
Dr. Haley Hazlett has been DORA's Program Manager since 2021. She was a DORA Policy Intern before taking the role of Program Manager. She obtained her Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology in 2021 and is passionate about improving research culture for all researchers.

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