Open Research: A Five-minute Guide

This blog post is a five-minute guide to open research and its benefits, with examples, tips and further reading. It was inspired by an invited presentation for the Australian Library and Information Association’s (ALIA) Mentoring Scheme

Open research for information professionals isn’t just for those who work in academia, it’s for all of you in schools, public libraries, academic libraries, wider GLAM institutions, government, industry and everywhere else. I’m an open researcher, which means I share my articles, my presentations, my interview guides, my research data and my reports freely with everyone. This blog post and the accompanying slides are shared under a Creative Commons CC BY 4.0 licence, which means they can be shared and adapted by others, with attribution.

What is Open Research

Image with 'Open Research' with umbrella icon at the top. Underneath and all on the same level are five open research types: 'Open Access' with an open padlock icon; 'Open Data' with a chart icon; 'Open Code' with a laptop icon; 'Open Methods' with an open book icon; and 'Open Peer Review' with an icon of three people and a joint speech bubble.
Slide 1 – What is open research

Open research or open science is all about being open throughout the whole research cycle, not just at the end with a journal article or report. Some of these ways are …

  • Open access which is sharing research outputs without cost to the reader
  • Open data is sharing data openly for others to potentially reuse – for example maps, statistics, scientific research data, survey responses and interview transcripts
  • Open code and open software are sharing code and software created in research projects
  • Open methods means sharing how you carried out the research – for example lab protocols, or how data was collected or analysed
  • Open peer review – the traditional peer review model is blind reviews which are only seen by the author. Open peer review makes the reviews, reviewer and author identities and communication publicly visible.

Open Research Benefits

Image with four icons and descriptive text to represent the benefits of open research: 'Reach - Reach more people in your communities' with a 5 node network icon; 'Share - Share more widely' with a 6 node network icon; 'Reuse - Others can reuse your work' with a cyclical 3-arrow icon; and 'Show - Show your skills' with an icon of a person pointing at a board.
Slide 2 – Open research benefits

Open research has clear benefits. You can:

  • Reach more people in your communities
  • Share more widely with other communities internationally
  • Make it easy for others to reuse your work
  • Show your skills, your commitment and reputation for open research.

More and more research funders are now mandating open data and open access, so being an open researcher can make it easier to meet these requirements.

Open Research Examples

Screenshots of the covers of six documents from a project about creative practice research outputs: Literature Review; Metadata Findings; Interview Guide; Interview Data; Opportunities (project report); and Repository and Metadata Guide for Creative Practice Researchers.
Slide 3 – Open research examples

Here’s some examples of open research from a project I finished this year, where I interviewed six artists, writers, film and theatre producers at Curtin University about how and where they share their creative practice research. There were a few similar projects underway when I started, so I decided that sharing my literature review would be a good way to contribute to open research (and hopefully save the other project teams some time and effort). This literature review has been downloaded 125 times in the last 8 months.

The ‘Metadata Findings from Card Sorting Activity’ includes sample cards for a card sorting research method, and I shared the interview questions. Both of these research outputs have a Creative Commons CC BY 4.0 licence so that anyone can reuse them in research with their communities.

The practical guide for researchers on how to share their creative practice research online has been downloaded 252 times, because it’s freely available (rather than being restricted to Curtin University researchers only).

Open Research Tips

After nearly a year of being an open researcher, I’ve learned from my mistakes!


  • Talk to your team/collaborators/manager at the start of the project about how you want to make your research open – which parts and where will you share them.
  • Think about who you want your message to reach, what do they read? Are you doing the research just for other researchers, or is it for your community and other communities to benefit from. Remember that lots of people do not have subscriptions to academic journals.


  • Build sharing into data collection consent, this means including asking for consent for open data in your project planning and ethics application if you need one (see below for sample text for a consent form).
  • Allocate time for deidentification and tidying up of open data. It can take hours to carefully review data so that it can be shared as open access.
  • Allocate time for reviews of reports whether it’s by someone on your team, a manager, or someone at a similar place of work.


  • Help others to find and reuse your work by describing it with as much metadata as possible – this means including the authors, date, contact email, keywords and license either inside your research output or in the repository where you share from.
  • Use Creative Commons licenses to show if your work can be shared and adapted, for example a CC BY 4.0 licence allows others to copy, reuse and even translate your work.
  • Use a free repository such as Zenodo to preserve your research, get a DOI, and share as open access (thank you Zenodo for supporting open research).

Learn More

Open access

Quigley, N. (2022). Free open access for early career researchers.

Open research

University of Melbourne. (2022). What is open research?

Creative Commons licenses

Sample Consent Form

Screenshot of consent form for interview. The consent questions have been included in the paragraph under this image.
Slide 4 – Sample consent form

I do/I do not:

  • consent to my interview being audio-recorded
  • consent to my deidentified quotations being:
    • used in any publications arising from this research
    • shared in a publicly available data set

Any quotations shared will not be personally identifiable.


Australian Research Data Commons. (2022). Working with research software. ARDC.

Crotty, D. (2021, February 25). What’s next for open science—Making the case for open methods. The Scholarly Kitchen.

Open Knowledge Foundation. (2022). The Open Data Handbook.

Open Knowledge Foundation. (2022). What is open?

PLOS. (n.d.). Open peer review. PLOS. Retrieved April 19, 2022, from

Quigley, N. (2022). Open Research: A Five-minute Guide. Zenodo.

Quigley, N. (2021). Increasing the visibility of creative practice research outputs (NTROs): Literature review.

Quigley, N., & Montgomery, L. (2022). Repository and Metadata Guide for Creative Practice Researchers.

Quigley, N. (2021). Increasing the Visibility of Creative Practice Research Outputs: Metadata Findings from Card Sort Activity.

Quigley, N. (2021). HRE 2021-0515 Research Data: Interview Guide.

Quigley, N. (2021). HRE 2021-0515 Research Data: Interview Transcripts.

Quigley, N, Montgomery, L, & Neylon, C. (2022). Creative Practice Research Outputs: Opportunities for Curtin University.

This work (text and images) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


Free open access for early career researchers

Confused about open access? It doesn’t always mean you have to pay to publish. Last year I finished my Master of Information Management, and turned my unfunded research project into:

  • An article in a highly-regarded open access journal
  • An open access report
  • A peer-reviewed open access paper for a highly-regarded conference
  • Open data – an interview guide and deidentified interview transcripts

Publishing all of these open access research outputs was free. Let’s take a look at each of them…

The journal article

Quigley, N. (2021). Open access in the humanities, arts and social sciences: Complex perceptions of researchers and implications for research support. LIBER Quarterly: The Journal of the Association of European Research Libraries, 31(1), 1–27.

The goal for my journal article was to reach as many research libraries as possible. Citations are not important to me, because I wanted to whisper an idea into the ears of those who support researchers.

Many open access journals do not charge authors to publish. I chose an open access journal that has no article processing charge (APC), and was confident in my choice because I’ve previously read lots of great articles in this journal. If you want to look up a journal to see if it charges authors to publish open access, search for it in The Directory of Open Access Journals.

The other reason I chose this open access journal was that it didn’t make me hand over the rights to my work. Many journals own your article once it’s been accepted for publication, which puts restrictions on how you can share and reuse your own work. Next time you’re considering a journal to submit an article to, see if you can find out their policy on author rights before you submit. Try one of these methods:

Maybe the journal offers green open access? This ability to share a version of your article (usually without fancy journal formatting) is better than nothing. However, some journal publishers who offer green open access are also making a nice profit from your work that you were not paid for. Their profit comes from charging readers for your article on their journal website, via subscriptions and one-off downloads.

Just 8 weeks after publication, my journal article has almost 600 downloads. This is from hundreds of people who regard this open access journal as high-quality, with articles of interest for research libraries.

Bar graph with title 'Who downloaded my first journal article?' The y-axis is the number of downloads. The three bars are labelled:
- me (1 download)
- my dad (1 download)
- people in research libraries (580 downloads)
Journal article downloads (on 10/02/2022, 8 weeks after publication)

The report

Quigley, N. (2021). Humanities researchers and open access: Opportunities for Curtin University.

My Masters research collaborator was a university library, and needed snappy actionable recommendations in a report format. I published my report on their institutional repository, with a DOI. My recommendations have already led to some changes in open access support at this university library, and further funded research opportunities for me.

The conference paper

The peer-reviewed, co-authored conference paper with Julie Clift and Dr Hollie White will be available as open access following the VALA2022 conference in June. I chose this conference because it makes its conference proceedings available for free, as open access after the conference.

The open data

Quigley, N. (2021). HRE 2020-0598 Research data: Interview guide (Version 1). Zenodo.

Quigley, N. (2021). HRE 2020-0598 Research data: Interview transcripts [Data set]. Zenodo.

I think open data is a fascinating window into the research process, and can also contribute to trustworthiness in qualitative research (read more on p7 of my article). I value research components that are reusable, which is why I shared my interview guide as open access, to be reused by other libraries. The interview guide also provides useful context for the deidentified interview transcripts which are available as open data.

To share my open data, I used Zenodo, a free repository. Zenodo enables me to get DOIs for my research outputs, add keywords to make my research outputs more findable, and will look after my research outputs for at least the next 20 years.


My first research project was as open access as possible, and I blogged about research methods too. In addition to all of my open access research outputs being free to publish, the journal and conference policies enabled me to retain the rights to my journal article and co-authored conference paper.

Publishing open access can be free, with a potential audience far beyond researchers whose workplaces can afford to pay journal subscriptions.

How many of my thesis references about open access were paywalled?

When I started my Master of Information Management thesis, I thought it would be interesting to analyse my final thesis references to find out how many journal articles about open access (OA) were paywalled. A paywalled journal article is where there is a cost to read the article, either via a one-off payment or a subscription (for example through a university library). The alternative to paywalls is open access, where research is free for all to read. Some journals are free for authors to publish as OA, and some journals require payment to publish as OA.

Now that I’ve submitted my thesis, I have more time to answer my questions about my thesis literature review:

Q1. What percentage of journal articles about OA were paywalled?
Q2. How much it would cost me to access these paywalled articles if I wasn’t a Curtin University student?
Q3. For the OA articles that required payment, how much did they cost?
Q4. For the paywalled articles, what rules did the journal have about OA? Is it possible that some of these paywalled articles could become OA?


I used the following steps to turn a list of references in a Word document into an OA status spreadsheet:

Extract journal article URLs from Word document

My thesis references contained 90 journal articles, webpages, grey literature and books (thanks free Zotero for painless reference formatting). 29 of these references were journal articles about open access and institutional repositories (digital archives used to preserve an institution’s research outputs, usually publicly accessible as a website). In exchange for a cup of tea, my software developer husband automagically extracted URLs from the References section of my thesis. After pasting the references into vim, he used the following commands to extract the URLs:

this command deletes all lines with no ‘http’


this replaces a whole line with just the URL


Run the URLs through Unpaywall’s Simple Query Tool

I ran the resulting text file through Unpaywall’s free Simple Query Tool which checks DOIs and returns a spreadsheet (or .csv or JSON) showing if the DOIs are OA or paywalled (closed). A DOI or Digital Object Identifier is ‘a unique, permanent identification number that will take you straight to a document no matter where it is located on the Internet’ (Victoria University, 2021). 

Unpaywall’s Simple Query Tool also returns (among other fields) whether the DOIs are green, gold, bronze, hybrid or closed where:

‘Gold: Published in an open-access journal that is indexed by the DOAJ.

Green: Toll-access on the publisher page, but there is a free copy in an OA repository.

Hybrid: Free under an open license in a toll-access journal.

Bronze: Free to read on the publisher page, but without a clearly identifiable license.

Closed: All other articles.’ (Piwowar et al., 2018, p. 5)

Manually check any URLs that are not DOIs

Some journals use URLs rather than DOIs, and Unpaywall can only check DOIs. I manually checked one URL to see if it was OA or paywalled. 

The resulting spreadsheet contained 29 journal articles, with their OA status and type. For the articles that Unpaywall reported were closed (paywalled and not OA), I opened them in an incognito Chrome tab to confirm. The reason for using an incognito tab was to make sure my Curtin University student credentials were not being used to give me access to full articles. 


Q1. What percentage of journal articles about open access were paywalled?

Almost a quarter (7) of the 29 journal articles I cited about open access were paywalled.

Pie chart with heading 'Paywalled vs open access'. A red section reads 'paywalled 24% (7 articles). A blue section reads 'open access 76% (22 articles).
Numbers of paywalled and OA articles (total = 29 articles)

Open access has lots of different types, and as mentioned above Unpaywall’s Simple Query Tool returns the OA types in its results. Note that some of the articles that are now green OA may have previously shown up as paywalled because publisher embargoes delaying OA publication were still in effect. For more discussion of OA types, read Aaron Tay’s blog post on this topic.  

Here’s the breakdown for this sample using Unpaywall’s OA types (listed above in the Method section). For each OA type, the number of articles and percentage of total journal articles (29 articles) is included.

Pie chart with heading 'Open access type breakdown'. Sections are:
red 'closed 24% (7 articles);
green 14% (4 articles);
gold 38% (11 articles); bronze (3 articles); hybrid 14% (4 articles).
Numbers of OA articles by type (total = 29 articles)

Q2. How much it would cost me to access these paywalled articles if I wasn’t a Curtin University student?

For the closed journal articles, I looked up the current cost to buy the closed articles on journal publisher websites. If I didn’t have access via Curtin University Library subscriptions, the approximate cost to read all 7 paywalled articles would be approx. $365 AUD ($280 US).

Q3. For the OA articles that required payment, how much did they cost?

For the journal articles that were OA but had a cost to publish, I looked up the current Article Processing Charges (APC). Where a publisher website did not specify a currency, I assumed USD.

The total cost to publish 9 articles was approx. $29,200 AUD ($22,600 USD), and this money went to the journal publishers. The authors may have been able to pay these APCs with funding from their research grant, or support from their institution. Keep in mind that the true cost of publishing for the authors who paid may have been lower due to factors such as: transformative agreements; discounts and waivers dependent on the country of the corresponding author; and institutional and society discounts.

A system where the author pays the publisher an APC to make research available to all sounds better than paywalls. However, consider researchers in developing countries who cannot afford these costs, even with APC waivers in place.

Q4. For the paywalled articles, what rules did the journal have about OA? Is it possible that some of these paywalled articles could become OA?

My next question was could any of the paywalled articles be available as OA in any way, for example adding a pre-print to an institutional repository. Some researchers are unaware of a website called Sherpa Romeo, where you can check what rules publishers have about sharing publications as OA.

Using Sherpa Romeo, I checked the OA rules for the journals of the 7 paywalled articles. Almost all journals allowed green OA (some with embargoes which have passed). The exception was one journal which only allows green OA for specific funders after a 12 month embargo. This suggests at least three reasons why these paywalled articles are not available as green OA:

  • that the authors of the paywalled articles didn’t get around to sharing them as green OA via institutional repositories or personal websites
  • when the article was published the publisher did not allow green OA
  • Unpaywall couldn’t find a green OA copy but it exists somewhere.


Many OA researchers work within library and information science as part of a humanities faculty, therefore reasons given by humanities researchers for not publishing OA are relevant. These reasons are summarised in Arthur et al. (2021, p. 11). Looking at these reasons in the context of articles written about OA, we can probably assume that the authors understand OA concepts and the importance of institutional repositories. Therefore, some of the remaining reasons applicable for not publishing articles about OA as open access are:

  • a dependency on prestigious journals for career progression (Arthur et al., 2021, pp. 11-12)
  • not having access to funds to pay APCs (Tenopir et al., 2017, p. 839). 


Writing this blog post satisfied a curiosity to find out how many journal articles in my thesis references about open access were paywalled. Piwowar et al. predict that by 2025, ‘44% of all journal articles will be available as OA’ (2019, p1). Compared to this estimate, the result in this small sample that 76% of journal articles are available as OA is positive (or 24% paywalled). However, the situation where some readers have to pay for an article about open access shows just how broken the academic journal publishing system is.    

Learn more

Read more about OA

If you have time for a documentary, watch for free ‘Paywall: The Business of Scholarship’


Arthur, P. L., Hearn, L., Montgomery, L., Craig, H., Arbuckle, A., & Siemens, R. (2021). Open scholarship in Australia: A review of needs, barriers, and opportunities. In Digital Scholarship in the Humanities. (read the free pre-print at

Piwowar, H., Priem, J., Larivière, V., Alperin, J. P., Matthias, L., Norlander, B., Farley, A., West, J., & Haustein, S. (2018). The state of OA: A large-scale analysis of the prevalence and impact of open access articles. PeerJ, 6, 1–23.

Piwowar, H., Priem, J., & Orr, R. (2019). The future of OA: A large-scale analysis projecting open access publication and readership. BioRxiv, 795310.

Tenopir, C., Dalton, E. D., Christian, L., Jones, M. K., McCabe, M., Smith, M., & Fish, A. (2017). Imagining a gold open access future: Attitudes, behaviors, and funding scenarios among authors of academic scholarship. College & Research Libraries, 78(6), 824–843.

Victoria University. (2021). Library guides: APA 7th referencing.