Octopus platform ‘will change research culture’

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Funding has been agreed to help develop a ground-breaking global service which aims to ‘positively disrupt research culture for the better’. 

Octopus Publishing Community Interest Company (CIC), in collaboration with Jisc, will receive £650,000 over three years from Research England’s emerging priorities fund. The money will support development of a new platform for the scientific community. Called Octopus, it will provide a new ‘primary research record’ for recording and appraising research ‘as it happens’.   

As reported in Research Information in June 2020 the tool, developed by Alexandra Freeman, breaks down the publication of scientific research into eight elements, unlike a traditional journal article. 

The eight elements are: problem; hypothesis/rationale; methods/protocol; data/results; analysis; interpretation; real-world implementation; and peer review. Elements are linked together on Octopus, to form chains of collaborative work. These smaller units of publication encourage faster sharing, and credit can be given to individual work at all stages of the research process, including peer review.  

The platform is free for researchers to publish their work, free for anyone to read and embeds the principles of openness and transparency throughout. Its aim is to reset the incentive structure in research to reward best practice in every aspect of the scientific process. 

Research England’s director of research, Steven Hill, said: ‘The funding to support Octopus aligns with Research England’s strong commitment to open research and the government’s People and Culture Strategy.  

‘There is real potential for this service to positively disrupt the publication landscape and provide a tool for the research community, which is owned by the community.’ 

Director of open research services, at Jisc, Liz Bal, added: ‘The vision for Octopus is strongly aligned with Jisc’s overall mission in leveraging technology to improve research. Open by design, Octopus represents an entirely new publishing model, with the potential to transform research communication and research culture.

‘Our goal for Octopus is that it is driven by the needs of the global research community and that the underlying technology and processes are open, robust and scalable.’ 

Director of Octopus, Alexandra Freeman, said: ‘My hope for Octopus is that it breaks down barriers to access to scientific research, helps remove hierarchies and the culture problems that those cause, and encourages a new culture of collaboration, constructive critique and fast sharing of work.  

‘The COVID-19 pandemic has shown not only how important fast and open publication of research is, but also what can be achieved when the scientific community work together towards a common goal. Covid research shouldn’t be the exception – all research should be this transparent, and freely available to all.’ 

The design emphasis will be on speed and ease of use – both for authors to share their own work and to search for relevant work of others.   

Research England’s funding will support the technical development required to move the experimental Octopus tool from a prototype to an active service that’s available worldwide. It will also support marketing and outreach, a programme of evaluation and user research, and work to develop a sustainable model for Octopus in the long term.