Veg-i-Trade: OpenAIRE supporting dissemination of research
Actually I have to admit that we do lag behind in "promoting" Open Acces in our Veg-i-Trade project. We are often focussed in the project on research plans and lots of practical issues on methods and experimental setups for data collection, statistics on data processing and good scientific/English skills to write up the manuscripts. As for the selection of journal to publish in most of our researchers pick upon their "usual' well known journals (which are usually not Open Access) to publish in when writing up their results. I already heard about Open Access publishing but when talking on it with some of my colleagues in the research project in general the feeling is:
- these are journals we do not know (and we do not read ourselves that much, so will other researchers then read my article ? );
- these journals are not listed among the top (impact factor) journals in the "Web of Knowledge" or "Journal Citation Reports Ranking" that our funding agencies and academic evaluation commissions strongly appreciate us to publish in;
- and on top of that it costs a lot of money !
Although when it comes to the money aspects, I do know that this is an eligible cost for EU FP7 projects. Still we can only spent the money once, preferably and first spending it on the "lab" materials and thus not given a priority to publishing Open Access. Actually we already past the mid-term of the Veg-i-Trade project when I heard (last year) a clear presentation on Open Access publishing by our UGent Biblio people at our Faculty of Bio-Science Engineering which made me realize thatit is indeed worthwhile to look into Open Access publishing
Actually, providing access to research papers using a repository instead of publishing in Open Access Journals is considered Open Access as well. So even if you can't find a suitable Open Access Journal, you can still provide Open Access to your work.
I learned that self-archiving our publications in the Ghent University Insititutional Repository (which we are obliged to do anyway because Ghent University has a ID/OA mandate) is also a way to provide Open Access to our research. I also then picked up a nice Open Access article from PloS ONE so I realized that indeed Open Access journals are also in my research field. In addition, I noticed that many traditional journals now offer to get an accepted article also published as Open Access (upon payment of course) and got to realize that Open Access is gaining interest and coming to a 'break-through'.
So, honestly, up till now there was no real intention to publish in Open Access (which explains the still restricted number of Open Access papers by our EU FP7 Veg-i-Trade project). Also there was no actual communication on Open Access publishing in our Veg-i-Trade consortium although I mentioned it to a few of my research colleagues but as mentioned above, most of the time researchers are not immediately taking up this message. Again since the last 6 months I became aware about the opportunities, the system behind and the importance of Open Access publising I will for sure start making this point on Open Access publishing more actively within the present Veg-i-Trade Consortium. The majority of our research papers are still in the progress of being written up or at revision stage and I will look into it to have a more active policy and awareness on the need and opportunity provided by EC funded projects for Open Access. A good first step is to have the final peer reviewed version of our published papers deposited in our repositories. Because of OpenAIRE harvesting our repositories, the research becomes visible on the OpenAIRE page of our project, which is a nice extra.
Research Data Management will become a more and more important factor when conducting project-based research. Does Veg-i-trade produce datasets?
Yes, we produce for example microbiological data (e.g. on Escherichia coli levels as a hygiene indicator, on the presence of pathogenic bacteria such as Salmonella) from field samples in primary production (samples from soil, from irrigation water, from lettuce crops) and in processing of fresh-cut produce (samples from processing water, from washed pre-cut lettuce)
Data management is important for us in particular if several partners collect similar type of samples in different parts of the world (e.g. leafy greens sampling is happening in Norway, Belgium, Spain, Brazil, India, South Africa, Egypt) and we want to combine all data in one dataset for exploitation of correlations of microbiological contaminations with local production practices and local climatic conditions . We noticed that minor modifications of methods of detection or sampling (e.g. in water analyses : 1 liter versus 5 liter samples; e.g. the use of conventional plating methods versus older approaches such as most probable number estimates versus new advanced PCR methods for enumeration) has an impact on e.g. lower limits of detection and as a consequence on how you express and classify your data and at the end it will impact statistical interpretation etc. So, data management is very important and affects conclusions. I do think data management is increasingly important in the future !
Do you work with data management plans?
In a way, yes. But looking back on the experience we built throughout the Veg-i-Trade project, we could have done better at the start... we always learn from prior experience.
Do you coordinate and collect them centrally or do you leave this to the discretion of the project partners?
At Ghent University we started up examples of how to built the database to pass this Excell template on to other partners. We also agreed upon one standard approach for categorizing data. We are currently in the process of collecting all the datafilest together with one partner (and a back-up partner), but it is still challenging as the individual partners have the right (and the duty) to first double-check and process their 'own' data set in particular also to check the validity of their data set, to look for plausible explanations of the outcome of their data collected in their local conditions.
The next step is to collect the data sets centrally to exploit overall and elaborate on this "extra layer" of data processing over all data sets. Still it is important to realize that indeed because so much effort and work has been done by individual partners to gather the data it is not that obvious to pass on these data sets centrally (and for a central person to understand the actual results as noted/mentioned in the individual template files). There is many and good communication between partners (and preferably with the initial researcher involved and not 2nd hand via another less involved person in the same lab) to accomplish good central data collection.
In addition it is very important for the individual researcher & research teams involved that they all know what is going to happen centrally with these data and keep them involved in the "extra layer" exploitation. So, in conclusion there is need of good preparatory work in the experimental set-up, need of good communication, transparancy and trust between partners to share data and setup a central data collection system. This became clear in our Veg-i-Trade project because we are not only dealing with EU partners but with partners worldwide for whom customs in sampling and methods of analysis might differ between labs and some methods which are used as standard methods in EU labs or reagents which are readily available to us in EU are not always accessible throughout non EU countries and thus one has to work with "equivalent" methods priorly agreed upon.
Large projects with many countries involved are quite challenging from this perspective. But I heard the same issues from other projects in my research area : there is still need in good harmonization of sampling plans, methods, data reporting & data interpretation.. but that is part of our job as researchers and it will never be fully harmonized I'm afraid.
If you have questions about self-archiving your work, about Open Access Journals or about Research Data Management, don't hesitate to contact your National Open Access Desk! OpenAIRE has a NOAD in each member state and they are ready to assist you with finding the answer to your question.