Science policy increasingly focuses on maximising societal benefits from science and technology investments, but often reduces those benefits to activities involving codifying and selling knowledge, thereby idealising best practice academic behaviours around entrepreneurial superstars. This paper argues that societal value depends on knowledge being used, making knowledge’s eventual exploitation partly dependent upon on whether other users—societal or scientific—can use that knowledge (i.e. on how far new knowledge is cognate with users’ existing knowledge). When scientists incorporate user knowledge into their research processes, what we call ‘open research behaviours’, their knowledge may be more usable. We develop a set of hypotheses concerning whether researchers’ personal and professional characteristics are associated with open research behaviours. We find evidence which suggests that, whilst personal characteristics are not associated with open research behaviours, researchers who experience professional signals validating open research behaviours are more likely to demonstrate such behaviours.