Supporting open research at the University of Manchester Libraries

The University of Manchester is a public research university and the largest university in the United Kingdom, supporting the activities of more than 40,000 students and 12,000 faculty and staff. In April 2022, Manchester launched the Office for Open Research (OOR), an ambitious effort to enable and embed open and reproducible research practices in alignment with institutional goals. The office, situated in the university library, helps researchers make their publications, methods, software, and data open by delivering training, advocacy, guidance, infrastructure, and tools integrated within the research life cycle.

Scott Taylor, Head of Research Services and Head of the Office for Open Research, recently gave a Works in Progress webinar presentation to affiliates of the OCLC Research Library Partnership. I encourage you to watch his fascinating presentation, but I’m synthesizing some of my high level takeaways below.

Open research is an enterprise goal

The University of Manchester has articulated a vision and strategic plan called Our Future, which sets forth priorities in several areas, including teaching and learning, social responsibilities, global influence, and research and discovery. It further states that over the next five years, it will prioritize the development of an open and responsible research environment.

Open research is a library goal

The University of Manchester Library created its own strategy, called Imagine 2030, as a response and contribution to the University’s strategic plan. Establishing the Office for Open Research is a lead priority area, which it describes as “one of the most significant investments in the future of publishing, data and open knowledge by any UK university, reaching across all Humanities and Science disciplines.”

The Office of Open Research represents a transformation in approach

Of course, supporting open research isn’t new for the library, as it has been supporting open research activities for more than a decade, particularly through open access and research data management services. But the launch of the Office of Open Research represents a new level of commitment, maturity, and coordination of open research activities for the university. As an institution level goal, the office is well resourced, with 4.2 FTE staff coordinating an extensive array of activities.

In his webinar presentation, Scott articulated four key functions of the office:

  1. Strategically coordinating the University’s response to the open research agenda
  2. Creating a single point of contact with the expert open research support available across the University
  3. Supporting open research communities within the University and beyond
  4. Championing open research and sharing the latest open research news

The library is a hub for open research strategy, training, and coordination

Image of slide with list of ten University of Manchester units in the Open Research Service Partnership.

The OOR website provides a single point of contact for researchers to connect with services provided not only by the library but by other units on campus. The library is positioned at the center – and as leader – of campus activities, working in collaboration with many other campus units within a formal Open Research Service Partnership. Partners provide collaborative input on strategy and activities, while this hub and spoke model also helps to raise awareness among researchers about the array of services available to support their open research activities, which include a webinar series, news digest, documented open research case studies, access to open research tools like, and much more.

Institutional infrastructure supports new insights into open research practices

In the United Kingdom, the Research Excellence Framework (REF) has been used since 2014 to assess research quality at higher education institutions, requiring institutions to carefully collect the scholarly record for their affiliated researchers and scholars. Institutions use research information management systems (RIMS, more commonly called CRIS systems in Europe) like Pure to aggregate metadata about institutional research activities. Using a combination of proprietary and locally-developed systems, Manchester has developed an infrastructure suite to not only support REF reporting but also to provide insights into institutional open research practices.

The maturity of this infrastructure suite probably looks unfamiliar to most readers in the US and Canada. That’s because we lack national mandates like the REF to collect and measure the impact of sponsored research that have incentivized the adoption of RIMS/CRIS systems (and more) in the UK. The wealth of information Manchester knows about its institutional research footprint is impressive and probably impossible to replicate at most North American institutions.

Image of platforms used by the University of Manchester to support open research monitoring

Manchester is examining how it can better report on its research activities as part of its open research goals. The locally developed Open Access Compliance Platform (OACP) takes the Pure data and expands the metadata schema to include things like data access statements that are not supported in the RIMS/CRIS system. This provides Manchester better tracking and understanding of its progress toward open research goals. This progress can be viewed by members of the Manchester research community through the Open Research Tracker platform, increasing institutional awareness of open research indicators.

Manchester is also partnering with the UK Reproducibility Network (UKRN), Research England, and a number of other UK institutions on an Open Research Programme, to explore how to define a set of indicators that can provide insights into open research activities. This includes examining the prevalence of researcher registration of their research projects and use of data access statements. Scott also spoke about a partnership with DataSeer to learn more about the types of data being shared by Manchester researchers.

Graph representing the types of data types shared by University of Manchester researchers

Scott’s webinar presentation is a powerful demonstration of the new and impactful ways that libraries are extending their services beyond traditional library roles, and in doing so, leading efforts of institutional strategic importance. I encourage you to watch the recording.