The ascent of SOAPbox

A new generation of open access publishing bubbles up in Trinity College Dublin




Open Science, Students, Early-Career Researchers, Community of Practice, Sustainable Development Goals


Watch the VIDEO.

‘The Open Science revolution will be led by early-career researchers.’  Professor Linda Doyle (Dean of Research, Trinity College Dublin).

Major challenges in scholarly communication worldwide have occurred over the past twenty years, but real change has been slow. However, this generation of early career researchers looks likely to finally transform the culture.

SOAPbox is a drive led by Trinity College Dublin students to rapidly transform their publishing culture and processes to open access, and in doing so, to fully integrate them into the dynamically-evolving open research environment. While student open access publishing is not new, SOAPbox is distinguished by its agility, its scale and its collective focus and ambition, sustained by its alignment with global and institutional policies and objectives. This has enabled SOAPbox to capture the imagination of a university and, more than any other single initiative, galvanise its community into positive engagement with open access.

In this presentation, we outline SOAPbox, its rapid progress and the cultural factors that define it. We explore how this multidisciplinary, inter-generational Open Science community of practice works; we identify early learnings from the project and provide insights into the key issues facing early-career researchers engaged in Open Science publishing.

Trinity College Dublin has a history of leadership and collaboration in Open Science, technically (e.g. early CRIS/IR integration; eDeposit Ireland) and from the policy perspective (e.g. EURAB Scholarly Publication Group (Chair, 2007); EC OSPP Board and Working Group representation; Ireland’s National Open Research Forum).

In 2018, the Dean of Research and the College Librarian created the TCD Open Scholarship Taskforce which includes faculty deans, researchers, library & HR personal, IT professionals and students. Central to this initiative is an understanding that the successful transition to Open Science requires radical changes in how we approach and value the practice of research. The Taskforce supports projects like SOAPbox that have a transformative effect on research culture. 

 We will explore the SOAPbox Key Signifiers of Transformation:

  • The Big Bang. Very rapid platform development with lightning-fast transformation of a significant number of journals (student-run alongside illustrious academic journals);
  • Inclusiveness. A multi-disciplinary Open Science publishing community of practice across all disciplines and all research career stages (undergraduate and postgraduate students ­– alongside senior academics managing centuries-old journals);
  • Ethical, Sustainable, Global Responsibility. Supporting positive societal, economic and cultural impact of research, with a specific emphasis on the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals;
  • Cultural Change: an embedded, creative training and education strand, employing innovation expertise, a Certificate in Scholarly Communication (an additional extrinsic motivator) and periodic surveys to inform an understanding of the experience;
  • Alignment: with the strategic goals of the University and with its graduate attributes, championed by the Dean of Research and supported by the Graduate Students’ Union.

SOAPbox is a scholar-led, community-driven, inclusive publishing initiative which has embraced the spirit of ‘glocalisation’. It instills a life-time commitment to Open Science amongst its participants, changing the world, from one university out.

Author Biographies

Niamh Brennan, Research Informatics, The Library, Trinity College Dublin

Programme Manager for Research Informatics in Trinity College Library Dublin, responsible for the development of Trinity's Research Support System and its institutional repository, TARA (Trinity's Access to Research Archive). Chair of Ireland's National Open Research Forum Publications Group; partner in OpenAIRE Advance; independent chair of the TU Dublin Open Research Advisory Group; member of the management councils of two key Irish journals in economics and social sciences; member of the European Commission Expert Group on Skills for Open Science, reporting to the European Open Science Policy Platform (expert group report published: September 2017).

Shane Collins, Trinity College Dublin

Shane Collins is a Researcher based in Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and affiliated with Science Foundation Ireland's Research Centre for Future Networks and Communications (CONNECT). Previously he served as President of TCD's Graduate Students' Union and during this time acted as a Director of the College Board, member of the College's Research Committee, coordinated two International Postgraduate Research Conferences and directed TCD's Love Research Week.

His background is in education policy, leadership and management and his current research interests include Open Scholarship, Policy Studies, Organisational Culture and Civic/Citizenship Education.

He is a member of CONNECT’s Orthogonal Methods Group (OMG) which is a transdisciplinary research platform that seeks to produce insights on technology, creativity and society by sharing of ideas, questions and critical dialogue across and between researchers and the public. He is a member of TCD's Open Scholarship Taskforce and is currently working on inclusive, innovative, transformative Open Scholarship projects that engages with early-career researchers on maximising the impact of their work by fully integrating into the Open Research environment.

Linda Doyle, Trinity College Dublin

Linda Doyle is Professor of Engineering & The Arts and the current Dean & Vice President for Research in Trinity College Dublin. Prior to taking on the role of Dean/VP of Research, she was the Director of the CONNECT SFI Research Centre, a national research centre focused on future networks and communications. Her expertise is in the fields of wireless communications, cognitive radio, reconfigurable networks, spectrum management and creative arts practices. She has raised over €70 million in research funding in the past decade and has published widely in her field. Linda was one of the founders of the Orthogonal Methods Group, a research platform that works in critical and creative tension with technology with the purpose of generating knowledges, insights and alternative research orientations across disciplines that are sometimes perceived to be mutually exclusive. She is a Fellow of Trinity College Dublin, the current chair of the Douglas Hyde Gallery and Co-Chairs Trinity’s Open Scholarship Taskforce.

Helen Shenton, Trinity College Dublin

Helen Shenton was appointed as Trinity College Dublin’s Librarian and College Archivist in June 2014. Helen joined Trinity from Harvard Library where she served as Executive Director and oversaw the bringing together of the services of 73 individual libraries and, in the process, managed multiple stakeholders using strategic insights to develop one of the world’s most renowned research libraries in areas like digitisation, accessibility, collection and content development, and records management. Helen has cared for world-class collections across several heritage sites. At the British Library, she led the care of the UK’s national documentary heritage collection and national printed archive, both physical and digital. At the UK’s Victoria and Albert Museum, she had responsibility for the care of one of world’s finest decorative arts collections and was deeply involved with major exhibitions at home and abroad. Together with the Dean of Research, Helen Co-Chairs Trinity’s Open Scholarship Taskforce and is committed to making TCD’s collections and research as accessible to the public as possible.