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What’s the point of research transparency? A blog by Juliet Tizzard

Last updated on 23 Apr 2019

Earlier this month our new Research Transparency Strategy Group met for the first time. In a small basement room - improbably named after the highest mountain in Africa - a group of people who support, carry out, fund and benefit from research came together to devise a new transparency strategy for the Health Research Authority.

This is an important piece of work for the HRA. We take our statutory responsibility to promote research transparency seriously, which is why we have accepted the challenge from the Science and Technology Committee to make significant improvements in this area of research practice.

But what’s the point of research transparency? The answer might seem obvious, but it is a crucial question to ask when embarking on a new strategy. What are we trying to achieve, for who and to what end?

Professor David Edwards and others in the group talked about open science. The ability to reproduce studies, to test and confirm conclusions and confirm results are important benefits of research transparency. When data is laid bare for others to check, the risk of ‘bad science’ is reduced and research waste is prevented. But does the information currently published about studies enable that? And, as science becomes increasingly sophisticated, is this replication still achievable?

Open science is important, but what about public accountability? Derek Stewart, a patient representative and engagement expert, talked candidly about the need for those receiving evidence-based care to be able to find out why and how decisions have been made. Information about research should be public, but it should also be accessible to all those who need to absorb it.

The HRA, with the Research Transparency Strategy Group, has started to thrash our both purposes and identify where we should focus our energies. What’s the priority for our transparency work: open science, public accessibility, or both?

You can read more about the first meeting of our expert group in the transparency section of our website. We will publish our draft strategy for public consultation this summer.  If you would like to submit comments in the meantime, you can do this by completing our transparency survey.

Juliet-Tizzard

Juliet Tizzard, Director of Policy

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