Digging into open science again at the 5th edition of the international open science congress, and strangely enough the first time I attended. As of January this year I also took up the role of Program Manager open access at the VSNU, and for me open access and open science are really connected. The focus of this congress was mainly on research data (management), FAIR data, and open science strategies or policies.
The presentations will be made available online, so there is no need to go through them all, but there are a few things I would like to highlight.
Starting with Georg Schütte, State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) from Germany. I liked his three questions, i.e., are we (1) strategic, (2) fast and (3) relevant enough? Wolfram Horstmann gave his view on things later on. He wondered whether open science could learn from open access. Open access is now becoming “structural”, and that is after 25 years of working on the topic. Does this mean that open science can come “fast”? Then it took us some time to understand what open access actually fixed (the problem of access to scientific literature). For Wolfram, Director Göttingen State and University Library (Germany), it is not yet evident what problem open science fixes. He recommended to see open science as something you voluntarily get involved in, as a local process, and claimed that it needs time to develop the appropriate reward system, that it has a cost, is cultural, and will blossom if we bridge the last mile.
There was also some food for thought about being FAIR. Not that this was questioned by Sarah Jones, but she brought some appetite into the discussion. The Associate Director of the Digital Curation Centre from the University of Glasgow (UK) explained that there is amongst researchers a lot of confusion about what fair is, and that we should be careful, in explaining this, not to disconnect the researcher (in relation to our terminology, dedication and thoroughness). One of her messages was to bridge the high-over open science advocacy and the down-to-earth research data management issues. This connection with the researcher or the researcher community came back several times, questioning whether looking for this connection is not just an excuse to slow down our actions. Or how we could reframe or simplify our vocabulary, because the words we use distance our scientists from us.
Another bridge to pass would be the one between disciplines. Simon Hodson, Executive Director from CODATA, talked about this. Just take nanomaterials. The way you look at them or describe them depends on your perspective. Is this from food science, ceramics, chemistry or e.g. medicine? All those disciplines articulate properties differently. So it is important to reach agreed vocabularies and standards. We should realize that if we already have many challenges to share data within disciplines, how do we do this across disciplines?
Presenting how Europe is leading open science was brought to us by different presenters. There was Jean-Claude Burgelman, from the European Commission, focusing on the timeline of actions in relation to the European Open Science Cloud, and Juan Bicarregui, coordinator of the EOSC pilot project. The EOSC pilot is a pilot but it will not build the ESOC. This year seems to be a pretty important one, where November should be the month in which the EOSC governance will be presented. Also Simon Hodson, chair of the EC expert group on FAIR data, talked about the expected deliverables of his group. They are working on a FAIR data action plan. FAIR remains key, and other elements such as reliability, ethical issues, connectedness or licensing, will be looked upon, without changing the acronym. They want FAIR to be achieved in a broader ecosystem. Another EC-supported initiative that was presented was by Karel Luyben, former rector of the Delft University of Technology and member of the Open science policy platform. He talked about the GO FAIR initiative, and showed the audience the nice Personal Health Train clip.
Open science would not be covered completely if there would be no reference to citizen science, rewarding, research integrity, software sustainability, open access, educational resources and skills. It would be difficult to address these fully in two days. However, acknowledgement of the intellectual contribution at several phases was mentioned, as well as the CReDiT initiative. Emily Sena, from the Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences, University of Edinburgh (UK), encouraged scientists to have more continued professional development. Her case was that preclinical research would benefit from open science. She asked for more neutral and negative results (“publish what does not work”) to be published.
And citizen science was being addressed by the President of the Leibniz Association – organizer of this conference – Matthias Kleiner. The Leibniz Association has in its mission that science should be in and for society. Examples of citizen science can be found on the “Burgerschaffenwissen platform”. Kleiner referred to the collaboration between the Zoo institute and “stadtreinigung”. The institute wanted to examine wild life in the city, and the early workers of the city were able to spot these. I would say that they found another useful bridge.