Open Research - revolutionising the publishing process for SRUK research

SRUK is working with our partners at the Association of Medical Research Charities via their new Open Research Platform, to revolutionise the publishing process for our researchers. This will enable SRUK-funded research groups to publish their work in a streamlined and cost-effective way, with the ultimate goal of translating new knowledge into effective treatments for people living with scleroderma.

Scientific research is key in developing knowledge and understanding of Scleroderma and Raynaud’s; along with effective treatments. Often, crucial new developments are not easily accessible, which can impact upon progress. Along with our partners at the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC), SRUK is working to change this.

As a member organisation of AMRC, SRUK has recently joined its Open Research Platform. This will enable SRUK-funded researchers to publish new information and share knowledge at a faster pace.

Translating new ideas into effective treatments depends on a multi-step pathway of scientific research. This is underpinned by the sharing of ideas through research articles published in prestigious, industry journals. The first scientific journal was created over 300 years ago by the Royal Society; to record member discoveries and facilitate the exchange of new knowledge. Burgeoning post-war investments led to rapid scientific advances, and scientific publishing quickly evolved into a fully-fledged industry.   

For decades, the publishing process has remained more-or-less unchanged. Researchers test their idea or ‘hypothesis’ through a series of rigorous experiments. They collect data and make conclusions before presenting their findings within a scientific article and submitting this for publication: e.g., to The Journal of Rheumatology. The editor then reviews this for how it ‘fits’ with the Journal’s objectives, as well as for its novelty. If successful, it will then pass to ‘Peer Review’ by fellow scientists or clinicians, to confirm that it is robust and the conclusions are valid; before being either accepted for publication or rejected.

It often takes several months for a paper to be published. This slows the rate at which discoveries are shared publicly and impacts upon opportunities to develop ideas further. There are other pitfalls within the current system, including:

  • It is costly to publish research articles through traditional journals 
  • It prioritises positive results, since only success stories are submitted and published. Many failed experiments, so called ‘negative data,’ are never publicly shared, so other researchers may inadvertently take a costly trip down the same road
  • Journals cannot meet the demand for publication. Often only the sexiest articles or those with broad appeal are published, with more niche topics losing out    
  • Articles are often hidden behind a paywall, making them inaccessible to most people with an actual interest, like the charity funding the work and its supporters - the patients themselves

Open Research aims to address this. It offers researchers a fast yet credible route to publication. This is less costly and supports the publication of ‘negative data,’ which enables better stewardship of resources. ‘Open Access’ is designed to enable patients, funders and other researchers to freely access research, which is vital for scientific collaboration.

The AMRC is not alone in this endeavour. Other large funders including the Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust have also created similar initiatives, with the goal of accelerating the pace of scientific advancements. We hope that AMRC Open Research will encourage a greater knowledge exchange surrounding Scleroderma and Raynaud’s in 2021 and beyond.