Open science – what’s the matter

14 December 2017

The first time I heard someone talking about open science a few years ago, I first thought naively: “What’s the matter? Important values of science have been always openness, collaboration and sharing.” When the first academic societies andjournals appeared nearly 400 years ago, they aimed for the free sharing, circulation and spread of scientific knowledge. But, as Professor Brian Nosek from the Open Science Centre points out,
information sharing within the scientific community has changed over the last few decades, becoming more “closed” and less accessible.

For example, if you are at a university in a developed country, you probably do not realize how costly it is
to access scientific literature. Looking for data from other scientists is a headache-inspiring process as the amount of data available grows exponentially, there are multiple data formats and the metadata is not standardized. You are overloaded with grant and paper writing because that is how your scientific career is valuated, and you keep complaining when citizens do not understand why research requires so much investment.

Citing the words of European Commissioner Carlos Moedas, open science is a “new approach to the scientific process based on cooperative work and new ways of diffusing knowledge by using digital technologies and new collaborative tools”. Since 2016, I have had the privilege of representing the EU-LIFE alliance (www.eu-life.eu) at the European Open Science Platform (OSPP). VIB and CRG, the institute where I work, are co-founders of EU-LIFE, an alliance of 13 European institutes in life sciences that want to have strong voices in European science policy. The OSPP is a multi-stakeholder group with representatives from universities, research centers, learned societies, publishers, libraries and funders to advise Commissioner Moedas in developing and implementing a European policy agenda on open science. Being part of the OSPP has been a very enriching experience that has allowed me to exchange views and build joint recommendations on open science.

We can think of open science as a growing tree branching out to bring open access to scientific literature and data to scientists and society, and open participation with many different actors to enrich science with multiple views and methods. To make open science more “concrete”, the OSPP is currently working on eight priorities: open access to publications, FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable) data, the European Open Science Cloud, citizen science, research integrity, skills, rewards and incentives, and extgeneration metrics. After spending a few years working in this field, I am now convinced that open science does indeed matter to all of us involved in research, as well as society at large. Are you sharing your data in FAIR databases? Are you publishing your work in preprint repositories? Are you enthusiastic about engaging the public in your research? I would be very happy to hear your views on these topics and trigger the discussion at EU-LIFE and the OSPP. Let’s work together to make open science happen!


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Michela Bertero (Head of International and Scientific Affairs, Centre for Genomic Regulation, Barcelona, Member of EU-LIFE strategy working group, Member of the European Open Science Policy Platform)