Making science more open is a popular sentiment among science policymakers and funding bodies, but what does it take to make this movement more than a buzzword? Technopolis Group is helping actors at national and EU levels bring Open Science policies and practices to the fore in academia, government and society more generally.
Accessibility, transparency, knowledge-sharing…all of these terms are associated with ‘Open Science’. In the last decade, the European Commission has made Open Science a central policy priority as well as a key component of broader efforts to use digital technologies to make research more attainable, interoperable and collaborative in Europe.
We all have an idea of what ‘open’ science could mean, but it is worth backtracking a bit to clarify this term before considering how to promote it. To start, it is more appropriate to think of Open Science as a spectrum of openness, as opposed to a door that is ‘open’ or ‘closed’. Along this spectrum, many actors have a role to play – from academic and research institutions to national and regional governments, industry representatives and citizens.
Furthermore, we are talking about what enters the public domain. It follows that research should be as open as possible, as closed as necessary. In other words, proponents of Open Science are not necessarily advocating for total transparency, because not all data should be ‘open’. For example, personal, biomedical, military and national security data should likely never, or in exceptional cases, be made open.
Open Science can, in turn, take many forms: opening up access to research publications, making data ‘FAIR’ (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Re-usable), sharing research software code, or even sharing research methodologies or laboratory notes. ‘Citizen science’ is another noteworthy practice of Open Science, whereby citizens (not necessarily traditional ‘researchers’) can help collect and analyse data or even actively contribute to running research projects.
While there is consensus among EU Member States that Open Science is of great importance, some worry that there is a disparity between the ambitions and the effectiveness of policies, technical development and actual support to researchers. A researcher is still more likely to be cited for publishing an article in a highly respected journal than for publishing datasets that have been made FAIR or research software code. To truly adopt an ‘open’ approach to science, the research culture needs to fundamentally change at all levels. This goes for the publishing industry, academic institutions, funding bodies and research organisations, but also the policymakers and researchers themselves.
Technopolis Group is highly aware of the above factors and has taken steps to support EU-funded and national initiatives in bridging the gap between the ambitions and the implementation of Open Science.
Applying structure and metrics to Open Science
Technopolis Group is involved in cross-cutting efforts supporting the implementation and adoption of Open Science in Europe. Two of these are related to the development of the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC), an EU flagship initiative aimed at enabling Open Science practices in Europe, as codified in the 2022-2024 European Research Area Policy Agenda. A first-of-its-kind virtual community, EOSC will provide a federated web of FAIR data and associated services to researchers across and outside Europe.
Between 2019 and 2021, Technopolis Group coordinated the Horizon 2020 project EOSCsecretariat.eu. The project resulted in the creation of the EOSC Association and the co-programmed European EOSC Partnership, both of which will direct and inform all future Open Science-related activities and stakeholders in Horizon Europe. This brings us to the second intervention: the Horizon 2020 project EOSC Future. Complementing EOSCsecretariat.eu, EOSC Future is developing and implementing an operational platform for EOSC (the EOSC portal). EUR 500 000 of the EUR 42 million project budget is dedicated to creating the EOSC Observatory. This policy intelligence tool and online dashboard will serve the EOSC community and help national and regional actors share and monitor their policies and activities related to EOSC and Open Science.
Technopolis Group recognises that national Open Science policies cannot be one size fits all, but instead must follow a collaborative, co-development approach. Different countries are bound to have different priorities. For instance, the Netherlands prioritises open access to research publications, making datasets FAIR, and citizen science. Other countries will approach Open Science in a different way, depending on the regional context and priorities. The same logic applies when looking at specific disciplines. A linguist works with different types of data and guidelines than an astrophysicist, and thus, will ascribe to different Open Science policies, ambitions and practices.
Changing the culture by empowering researchers
At the end of the day, Open Science rests in the hands of the researchers. This is why Technopolis Group is setting its sights on university campuses and national research funders. The Horizon Europe project Open and Universal Science (OPUS), set to launch in September 2022, aims to help research institutions and funders make the transition to Open Science. Technopolis Group will work with, among other key players, the Young European Research University Network, 3 European universities and 2 national funding bodies. The rationale for this initiative is that Open Science will be widely adopted if the researchers are supported and rewarded for adopting the respective practices. Three researcher organisations will also be engaged to ensure that researchers are heard throughout project design and implementation.
Ultimately, it is a positive sign that national actors have agreed to prioritise Open Science. Now, success depends on concretely implementing policies and fostering growing support and interest among researcher communities.