Skip to content
Home » Blog » Nick Sheppard, Open Research Advisor (Episode 38)

Nick Sheppard, Open Research Advisor (Episode 38)

    Nick Sheppard, Open Research Advisor (Episode 38) | Nick is championing open research and Wikimedia

    Research Adjacent 38 Nick Sheppard

    For this episode of the Research Adjacent podcast Sarah is talking to Nick Sheppard, Open Research Advisor at the University of Leeds. Based in the library, he helps researchers make their publications and data more accessible.

    From open access to open research

    Nick landed in the university library world in the 2010s after spending his 20s working in a variety of roles including mental health and teaching. After beginning as a library assistant at Salford University, he first turned his attentions to open access with a role at Leeds Metropolitan University (now Leeds Beckett). During his time there he set up the universities first open access repository, and uploaded one of his own papers as the very first record.

    I’m thinking back to that first role in setting up the repository at Leeds Met. Still going with the same software. I think it’s getting on for 10,000 records in that repository now. And the very first record is one of my papers that I uploaded when I was testing the system, so I’m proud that that’s there.

    He then moved to the University of Leeds in 2016 with his role evolving alongside the evolution of the open research agenda.

    “Things have developed across the sector to be more holistic around open research, so bringing together the open access side and research data side, increasing reproducibility and all that kind of stuff as well.”

    Championing Wikimedia for dissemination and teaching

    Although he works across the spectrum of open research, Nick is particularly interested in the potential of Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects like Wikimedia Commons and Wikidata. Nick is so enthusiastic that he was named UK Wikimedian of the Year in 2023.

    “If you Google pretty much anything academic or otherwise, where are you going to land? It’s not going to be on your seminal research paper, it’s going to be Wikipedia.”

    Nick is particularly keen to use Wikimedia to address representation and knowledge equity. For example there is far less information about notable women than notable men, and because so many Wikipedia editors are white English-speaking Europeans and North Americans there is a bias towards topics of interest to them. Broadening the diversity of people editing Wikipedia will help to address this.

    One particular Wikipedia page has a special place in Nick’s heart – the biography of Leeds abolitionist Wilson Armistead. A research paper by colleague Prof Bridget Bennett led him down a rabbit hole.

    “I just thought it was a fascinating story, I’d never heard of Wilson Armistead. There were these archives at the University of Leeds about him, this research paper, etc. I wrote a Wikipedia article, which is now quite well researched, others obviously have contributed to it as well. I’ve been working on that ever since really.”

    The future of open research

    Open research is still a developing area which means different things to different disciplines. That means challenges with creating repositories and systems that work and bringing researchers along for the journey. But Nick is optimistic about the potential for interdisciplinary collaboration and learning that will come from making research more open.

    “I think there’s a lot of potential for cross-disciplinary work. Collaboration is a huge part of what it’s all about. I think open research and learning from each other, whether it’s the library and other professional services with different academic departments, or different disciplines, everyone can benefit.”

    As an evolving field there are increasing numbers of job opportunities in open research. For anyone interested in a role in this area Nick suggests reading the series of guides created by the UKRN Open Research Competencies Coalition (ORCC) which cover working in open research, open access and data management.

    Find out more

    Theme music by Vitaliy Levkin from Pixabay

    Join our gang! Sign up for the Research Adjacent Round-Up

    Are a current or aspiring research-adjacent professional? Or are you just research-adjacent curious? It doesn’t matter, everyone is welcome in our gang! Research Adjacent Round-Up is our monthly newsletter. It includes podcast updates (of course) plus interesting articles, reports, careers tips and resources. You can unsubscribe any time.

    Follow Research Adjacent on your favourite socials