Open scholarship in Applied Linguistics: What, why, and how

Meng Liu & Sin Wang Chong, Convenors
Open Applied Linguistics Research Network
Open scholarship, also known as open science or open research, is defined as “an inclusive construct that combines various movements and practices aiming to make multilingual scientific knowledge openly available, accessible, and reusable for  everyone; to increase scientific collaborations and sharing of information for the benefits of science and society; and to open the processes of scientific knowledge creation, evaluation, and communication to societal actors beyond the traditional scientific community. It comprises all scientific disciplines and aspects of scholarly practices, including basic and applied sciences, natural and social sciences and the humanities, and it builds on the following key pillars: open scientific knowledge, open [scholarship] infrastructures, research communication, open engagement of societal actors, and open dialogue with other knowledge systems” (UNESCO, 2021, p. 6). The term open scholarship (henceforth OS) is used for this AILA Research Network (ReN) for its broad connotation and inclusiveness.
The field of applied linguistics initiated OS practices early on to enhance research quality and transparency, as evidenced by the establishment of the, an open repository for research instruments and materials, back in 2011. There have been many initiatives to enhance research transparency, reproducibility and accessibility, ranging from Registered Reports at Language Learning to the Open Accessible Summaries in Language Studies (OASIS) initiative, and the TBLT Language Learning Task Bank. Despite the initiatives and efforts by active proponents of OS, the wider community of applied linguistics has yet to engage with OS in greater depth and in a more formalised manner. More efforts are still needed to raise the awareness of OS and the many unresolved issues regarding research quality (Marsden & Plonsky, 2018). Considering the diversity of research paradigms in applied linguistics, it is even more important to initiate wider discussions among researchers with different epistemological stances and collaboratively pursue a discipline-specific understanding of open scholarship in applied linguistics.
To raise the awareness of open scholarship in applied linguistics and to initiate dialogues both within and beyond applied linguistics, a two-day online symposium was held by the AILA ReN Open Applied Linguistics on 9-10 June 2022. There were 467 registered participants,19 invited speakers and 12 presenters across all career stages who contributed 19 sessions over the two days. A variety of topics were covered at the symposium, ranging from replication and registered reports to research data management. The overwhelmingly positive feedback from the audience points to the timeliness and exigency for conversations on open scholarship for applied linguists. While this symposium marks only one of the initial steps in a long journey, we believe it sets us closer towards a more open and transparent future for applied linguistics. The event inspired a list of guidelines and corresponding practices that applied linguists may follow to encourage OS within their individual and collective research endeavours. These include the need for:
Mindfulness of epistemological differences within applied linguistics and the need to move beyond a narrow verification focused prescriptive approach to open research.
Cognizance of the need for a lingua franca to facilitate open and constructive dialogues beyond unidirectional communication between researchers and practitioners.
Affirmation of the importance of research data management training, which applies to all applied linguists, regardless of the methodology used.
Reiteration that the field of applied linguistics needs to be built on reliable and robust evidence, which requires deliberate replication of existing research and transparent labelling of such efforts.
Recognition of the importance and value of non-traditional publication formats such as registered reports, which could significantly reduce the likelihood of questionable research practices and minimise bias throughout the research process.
Awareness of the inherent challenges in publishing qualitative outputs, which requires careful considerations of ethical issues and holistic thinking.
Appreciation that there are still unresolved tensions between qualitative research and more in-depth discussions are needed for open scholarship to be more widely understood as an inclusive construct.
Recognition that structural and cultural change requires incremental steps and aligned efforts across infrastructure, user experience, communities, incentives, and policy.
Consideration of the ethical dimension of open scholarship and ethical and responsible adoption thereof.
Examples of concrete open practices include but are not limited to (Plonsky, 2022):
  • Share published materials and data on
  • Contribute an OASIS summary for your and others’ publications
  • Translate your and others’ abstracts into additional languages and share on the Multilingual Repository for abstracts in Applied Linguistics (MuRAL)
  • Sign the post-print pledge and make your post-prints readily available online
  • Download open data sets and replicate existing studies
  • Identify yourself as an open science researcher in your email signature, website, university profiles, and social media platforms
  • Incorporate OS practices in your undergraduate and graduate-level courses
  • Require an OS plan from advisees in thesis/dissertation proposals
  • Advocate for OS practices in the professional organizations and journals you are involved in
  • Request more openness in manuscripts you review
  • Include plans to share data in your next ethics and grant applications
  • Suggest to your home department’s annual review committee that credit be given to OS practices
  • Propose a workshop in your home department on OS practices
Marsden, E., & Plonsky, L. (2018). Data, open science, and methodological reform in second language acquisition research. In A. Gudmestad & A. Edmonds (Eds.), Critical reflections on data in second language acquisition (pp. 219–228). John Benjamins.
UNESCO. (2021). Draft recommendation on Open Science (pp. 1–21).