School of Social and Political Science

Dr Rosalind Attenborough

Job Title

ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow: Open and Healthy Research Cultures

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I am a postdoctoral researcher studying social aspects of science, having originally graduated in biological science. In 2021 I was awarded an ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship for a project titled Open and healthy research cultures: bringing insights into policy and practice. In this role I am building on my doctoral work on "openness" in science and exploring its underlying connections with "research culture(s)", which were evident in my PhD interview data.

I found that researchers have very different kinds of relationships with "open science" (open access, open data, open methods/notebooks, etc.) - from enthusiasm, to ambivalence, to resistance - and that this is shaped by supportive or unsupportive conditions in their research environments, often from early in their careers. Therefore in particular ways, "research culture" shapes a researcher's capacity to behave in an open and collaborative way, along with its obvious and important effect interaction with wellbeing and professional fulfillment.

In my Fellowship I am exploring practical and policy routes for making this (and related) findings useful in collaboration with a variety of audiences and stakeholders:

  • Researchers, especially biologists (whose experiences were the focus on my PhD work);
  • Grassroots advocates of open research who are part of research communities
  • University staff developing or implementing open research & research culture policies
  • National-level UK policymakers developing or implementing open research & research culture policies

Please feel free to get in touch if you have an interest in these topics or are a stakeholder, from any perspective.

My work is inspired and contextualised by my past experience as a biological researcher in laboratories exploring comparative genomics and coral developmental biology, and as a Publications Manager at the the pioneering open access publisher PLOS.

Within the STIS subject group at the University of Edinburgh, I have worked with Prof Jane Calvert and Dr Robert Smith, as well as Dr Thoko Kamwendo (at Durham University). My PhD was also based in STIS under the supervision of Dr Niki Vermeulen and Dr James Mittra. I trained in Science and Technology Studies (STS) through taught and research Master’s degrees at University College London and the University of Edinburgh. My original training was in biology at the Australian National University, and I hold a Bachelor of Philosophy (Science) with First Class Honours.

From my PhD research...

“There is scarcely a scientist who has not stumbled upon the term ‘Open Science’ of late and there is hardly a scientific conference where the word and its meaning are not discussed in some form or other.”  (Fecher and Friesike, 2014, p. 17)

Scientific openness is very old: for centuries, the communal sharing of findings has been valued, even if not practised, in the cultural sphere of academic science. But scientific openness is also very new: since the turn of the twenty-first century, a pursuit of “openness” – including open access and open data – has become increasingly salient in scientific discourse, practice, and policy. My research investigates contemporary meanings of “open” in science, drawing on historical context, policy documents, and primarily, interviews with biological scientists. I am using epistemic virtue as a sensitising concept to ask whether new moral frameworks for knowledge making (and associated ways of being a “good” scientist) are under construction in the contemporary embrace of openness.

Research interests

In my postdoctoral work I continue to explore openness in science, especially as a dimension of research culture(s). My focus is on developing practical initiatives to support healthy research cultures in science from the bottom up. I have also co-led a project supporting PhD researchers in my subject group.

I have also worked on ideas around responsible innovation: how cultures of science can work with and for broader societal values and priorities. My work is was previously supported by the UK Centre for Mammalian Synthetic Biology and I have also worked with colleagues to support Responsible Research and Innovation in the European funding programme ERA CoBioTech.

Keywords: open science, research culture, open data, open access, scientific publishing, ethos in science, epistemic virtue, disciplinary cultures, identity, responsible innovation


Podcasts and videos



2016-2020: PhD in Science and Technology Studies, University of Edinburgh

  • Thesis title: Finding virtue in open science? Biological scientists' constructions of openness in historical, advocacy and policy contexts

2015-2016: MSc by Research in Science and Technology Studies (with Distinction), University of Edinburgh

2014-2015: MSc in Science, Technology and Society (with Distinction), University College London

2007-2010: Bachelor of Philosophy (Science) with First Class Honours, Australian National University 


Professional experience

Oct 2021-present: ESRC Postdoctoral FellowOpen and healthy research cultures: bringing insights into policy and practice, University of Edinburgh

Mar-Aug 2021: Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Responsible Research and Innovation in the UK Centre for Mammalian Synthetic Biology, University of Edinburgh

Sep 2020-Mar 2021: Research Assistant, Building Capacity for Responsible Innovation in International Biotechnology Policy Organisations, University of Edinburgh

Jan-Mar 2020: Research Assistant and Co-Lead, Demystifying Post-PhD Futures (funded by Student Experience Grant), University of Edinburgh

Jan-Jul 2017: Student Transitions PhD Intern, Institute for Academic Development (with Academic Services), University of Edinburgh

2012-2014: Publications Manager for the journal PLOS Genetics, Public Library of Science (PLOS), Cambridge, UK

2011-2012: Publications Assistant for the journal PLOS GeneticsPublic Library of Science (PLOS), Cambridge, UK

2010 Feb-Jun: Science Communication Tutor, Australian National University

2006, 2010-2011: Laboratory Technical Assistant, Research School of Biology, Australian National University


Publications and presentations

Social science

2021: Invited speaker, Edinburgh ReproducibiliTea series, online. Stories from the “open science revolution”: how scientists talk about openness. [Youtube link]

2019: Invited speaker, Beilstein Open Science Symposium, Rüdesheim, Germany. Stories from the “open science revolution”: how scientists talk about openness.

2019: Event co-organiser and speaker, Openness and Reproducibility in Science workshop, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia. Talking to scientists about openness in science. [link]

2018: Schönbauer S, Attenborough R. Scientific identities: how to re-engage with identity and its politics. EASST Review 37(4). [link]

2018: Panel organiser and speaker, EASST Conference, Lancaster, UK. The open science “revolution”: changing policy, practice - and people? [panel] [talk]

2017: Attenborough R, "Gender balancing your scholarly journal”, pp. 53-55 in EqualBITE: Gender equality in higher education, edited by J. Robertson, A. Williams, D. Jones, L. Isbel and D. Loads. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers. [link]

2016: Speaker, 4S/EASST conference, Barcelona. Reflections on virtue and identity  in an “open science revolution”. [link]


Attenborough RMF, Hayward DC, Wiedemann U, Forêt S, Miller DJ, Ball EE (2019) Expression of the neuropeptides RFamide and LWamide during the development of the coral Acropora millepora in relation to settlement and metamorphosis. Developmental Biolology 446: 56-67. [link]

Attenborough R, Hayward D, Kitahara MV, Miller DJ, Ball EE (2012) A “neural” enzyme in non-bilaterian animals and algae: Pre-neural origins for peptidylglycine α-amidating monooxygenase (PAM). Molecular Biology and Evolution 29: 3095-3109. [link]

Attenborough R, Wiedemann U, Hayward D, Forêt S, Miller D, Ball E (2011) The Acropora millepora nervous system: neurotransmitters and development. Presented at the ARC CoE Boden Conference Genome Biology of Corals and their Relatives, Magnetic Island, Australia.

French HJ, Attenborough R, Hardy K, Shannon MF, Williams RBH (2009) Interindividual variation in epigenomic phenomena in humans. Mammalian Genome 20: 604-611. [link]

Warren WC, Hillier LW, Graves JAM, Birney E, [...] Attenborough R et al. (2008) Genome analysis of the platypus reveals unique signatures of evolution. Nature 453: 175-256. [link]


Funding and Awards

2021-2022: ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship

2020-2021: Funding from an ESRC Impact Accelerator Award the Mammalian and the UK Centre for Mammalian Synthetic Biology

2020: Student Experience Grant (Demystifying Post-PhD Futures)

2015-2019: Economic and Social Research Council Studentship (ESRC 1+3)

2010: University Medal in Biology, Australian National University

2010: Janet Elspeth Crawford Prize (top female Honours student in science),  Australian National University


Research interests