University of Birmingham: CARKing, HARKing and Salami Slicing – researchers illuminate Open Scholarship terminology

Open Scholarship is a fast-growing movement which aims to make scientific research widely accessible, but the explosion of new research-related terms and acronyms means that some topics can be opaque not only to novices, but even to experts.

In order to reduce barriers to entry and understanding, the team, led by the Universities of Birmingham and Oxford in the UK, and Friedrich Schiller University in Germany, has compiled a glossary of terms relating to open scholarship and published in Nature Human Behaviour. These include terms outlining questionable research practices such as ‘CARKing’ and ‘HARKing’ (critiquing/hypothesising after the results of an experiment are known); and ‘salami slicing’, in which researchers slice up the data from a study in order to increase the number of papers they can publish.

Other terms highlight the positive progress made by researchers adopting Open Scholarship practices. These include ‘slow science’ in which researchers are encouraged to spend more time collecting data and reading the literature rather than engaging in the race to ‘publish or perish’.

The project is part of the Framework for Open and Reproducible Research Training, a network that brings together educators and scholars working to improve teaching and mentoring practices in higher education.

One of the lead authors Dr Mahmoud Elsherif of the University of Birmingham’s School of Psychology, said: ‘One of the biggest problems with open scholarship is that whenever someone new enters the field, they’re confronted with a minefield of new terms, on top of their own research. Even among experts there can be disagreement over the meanings of vague, or competing definitions which can cause confusion and misunderstanding.

‘We hope that this glossary will be a welcome resource for those new to these concepts and that it helps develop their confidence in navigating discussions of open scholarship. We also hope that this glossary aids in mentoring and teaching as well as allowing newcomers and experts to communicate efficiently.’

The aim is to clarify terminologies, including where terms are used differently/interchangeably or where terms are less known in some fields or among students. Once published, the team will make the glossary universally accessible and also aim to translate the resource into different languages.

Co-lead author Flávio Azevedo, of Friedrich Schiller University’s Department of Communication, said: ‘Open Scholarship has radically changed the way we think and discuss research and education. These changes have increased the breadth but also the ambiguity of terminology, and that has created barriers to effective understanding and communication.

‘The FORRT Glossary is a first step in creating a common language for these concepts, facilitating discussions about the strengths and weaknesses of different Open Scholarship practices, and ultimately helping to build a stronger research community.’

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