Fostering cultures of open qualitative research

A recently completed project (running January to July 2023) examining practical and epistemic barriers to open qualitative research. The project was funded internally by University of Sheffield with Research England monies as part of their 2022-2023 ‘Enhancing Research Cultures’ programme.

Self-made logo for thw project including UKRI and University of Sheffield logos, the logo for ORDA, and four connected circles labelled qualitative research, technical barriers, epistemic concerns, and open science

About the project

Normative scientific notions of reproducibility and replicability are well established as mainstays for assessing and/or evaluating research. As a result, cultures of making quantitative datasets openly available, and for making the analytical processes and methods used to generate them transparent have become standard expectations of good research.

On the other hand, qualitative research, often steeped in interpretivism, has seen far less importance placed on reproducibility. Methods such as ethnographic immersion are seen to negate the process, small sample sizes can make anonymity problematic, meanwhile personal interactions in interviews or focus groups can differ from one day to the next depending on the dynamics of that interaction, the mood of a participant or researcher, and on when and/or where the interaction takes place. Meanwhile, funders, regulators, and national bodies are currently moving towards an expectation that research of all types be made open access.

Working to address the latter, this project received £13,913.85 from Research England monies as part of the Research England's 'enhancing research culture' scheme to examine: (1) how a culture of open qualitative research might be fostered; and (2) to report on what resources are needed to support it. The ran from January to July 2023, addressing questions about the perceptions and existing practices of open qualitative research - including making qualitative data and analyses open access, and in working in more open and transparent ways. Rather than focussing only on technical and processual aspects, the project also covered epistemic discussion i.e., what it means to make interpretivist inquiry open at various stages, and on how we might move towards open qualitative research whilst acknowledging a diverse array of underlying bases.

For empirics, the project drew on a survey with 91 respondents, fifteeen semi-structred interviewsm, and a stakeholder workshop with experst to assess and feedback on the analysis. All datasets are available on an open access (CC-BY-NC license) basis as below:

  • Hanchard M and San Roman Pineda I (2023) Fostering cultures of open qualitative research: Dataset 1 – Survey Responses. The University of Sheffield. DOI: 10.15131/
  • Hanchard M and San Roman Pineda I (2023) Fostering cultures of open qualitative research: Dataset 2 – Interview Transcripts. The University of Sheffield. DOI: 10.15131/
  • Hanchard M and San Roman Pineda I (2023) Fostering cultures of open qualitative research: Dataset 3 – Workshop Transcript. The University of Sheffield. DOI: 10.15131/

The final project report is available as below, providing various recommendations:

  • Hanchard, M, & San Roman Pineda, I. (2023) Project Report: Fostering Cultures of Open Qualitative Research [Report] Sheffield: The University of Sheffield. DOI: 1015131/

The key finding from the research saw us introduce the notion of 're-renderability' in place or repoducibility or replicability, a key challnege to notion of FAIR principles and a concept we plan to exent further into a peer-review article soon. The concept has also been presented through a theoretical framing steeped in science and technology studies (STS) by Matthew Hanchard at the University of Sheffield Annual Open Research lecture 2023 - a recording of which is accessible as:

  • Hanchard, M. (2023). Annual Open Research Lecture 2023: Dr Matthew Hanchard, Qualitative research: Towards a new socio-technical imaginary of open research. The University of Sheffield. Media.

About the team

  • Itzel San Roman Pineda
Robot reading books

Our work

How we understand being ‘human’ differs between disciplines and has changed radically over time. We are living in an age marked by rapid growth in knowledge about the human body and brain, and new technologies with the potential to change them.

A global reputation

Sheffield is a research university with a global reputation for excellence. We're a member of the Russell Group: one of the 24 leading UK universities for research and teaching.