Balancing Accessibility and Integrity: Ethical, Legal, and Practical Considerations For Scientific Research

Ethical and practical challenges present barriers to result communication in science. Effectively conveying research outcomes among scientists and the broader public is critical to scientific advancement and societal advancement. 

Scientific journals and conferences are the current principal means of disseminating scientific research products. These traditional forms of result communications are advantageous because they impose a peer review process aimed to ensure reliable, quality, and unbiased research. However, the efficacy of information dissemination from these traditional forms of scientific communication is severely hindered by restricted access to these channels of information. Paywalls, subscriptions, and fees associated with accessing these traditional means of scientific communication effectively restrict information access to individuals with institutional affiliations, thereby excluding general public access. 

Open source science aims to overcome traditional restrictions on information access by ensuring publicly available research publication and offering numerous avenues of publication with a range of fees to ensure publication fees do not limit information access. The broad access of open source science promotes broader collaboration and increases speed of scientific advancement via the immediate and transparent access to information.

Although open source publication is highly appealing because it increases information accessibility, legal concerns including but not limited to author ownership, intellectual property, and data privacy, present meaningful complexity in the practical application of open source science models. The greater accessibility of open source science possesses a two-fold nature because the advantages of creativity facilitated through increased accessibility also create difficulty with appropriately accrediting and protecting individual researcher contributions, which could decrease scientists’ motivation to publish with open source platforms. Further, the open nature of these publishing methods risks compromising individual participants’ privacy, which presents significant ethical concerns and undermines societal trust in future research.

These ethical, legal, and practical considerations warrant careful evaluation as I prepare for publishing the research findings of my master’s thesis. Ultimately, I aim to communicate my research findings through channels that facilitate the greatest public impact while maintaining research integrity. To reach the most effective research communication, I continue to evaluate all available options and am even considering a hybrid approach that utilizes dual publication in both private and open access models to reap the individual benefits from each.

My research at Trinity was deeply rewarding and I take great pride in sharing the products with the broader scientific community and general public. The products of my research at Trinity will advance neuroscience scholarship and keep me connected to Ireland through the ongoing academic advancements tied to research in my field.I look forward to my continued contributions to interdisciplinary scholarship in Ireland and globally as I embark on the next steps of my academic journey.

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