In March 2022, the 9th international Open Science conference of the Leibniz Research Alliance took place. Just like last year, the conference was online and preceded by the Open Science Barcamp. The conference and Barcamp topics revolved around multiple aspects of Open Science, from community building and public engagement, to FAIR research software and data mining. The two events complemented each other very well; the Barcamp focused more on general exchange of ideas, whereas the conference was mostly about presenting „state of the art“ developments and projects.
Open Science Barcamp
Topics for short sessions were suggested by some Barcamp participants and everyone decided on the spot which ones to join. Out of 14 different sessions each participant attended up to 3 sessions. The full schedule including links to the documentation pads of each session are accessible here. Below, we’ve highlighted a few of the sessions we visited.
How to move Open Science forward at institutional level
Esther Plomp (Delft University of Technology) proposed a session to discuss success stories and challenges in moving Open Science forward at the institutional level. The success stories ranged from meaningful partnerships within an institution, e.g. with the Research Integrity Office and partnerships with external project partners, to institutions‘ policies and programs on Open Access, Open Science and Research Data Management. Participants also mentioned that having enthusiastic OS advocates in the right position is a great way to move OS forward, as well as encouraging grassroots community initiatives. Organizing events and discussions on various OS topics is helpful too. This can be challenging, however, as not everyone is aware of the different aspects of OS, and, as someone said, ‚the term Open Science can be overwhelming for some people‘. Some suggested renaming it Open Research, Research Integrity or Sustainable Research. Plomp shared some useful links for sharing OS initiatives, such as the Open Scholarship Grassroots Community Network and concluded that the multitude of OS initiatives taking place at various levels across institutions is a good sign.
Rethinking Scholarly Communication
In the Barcamp session, Digitalize Knowledge, Not Documents! Rethinking Scholarly Communication, Anna-Lena Lorenz (Leibniz Information Centre for Science and Technology (TIB)), introduced the Open Research Knowledge Graph (ORKG). This initiative aims to describe research papers, research data, methods and other research objects in a structured manner to help researchers find relevant contributions and create comparisons and reviews. By organizing research contributions in the ORKG, researchers can keep oversight over the state-of-the-art within their field of interest. In her session, Lorenz invited participants to think about how to further develop the ORKG. Several participants stressed that it is important to keep in mind that researchers need to be made aware of the benefits using ORKG, otherwise it will not be used to its full potential. It is definitely good to rethink scholarly communication as we need to move away from the static PDF and such Knowledge Graph does look promising in enabling comparisons and visualizations to keep an overview of research content.
Open Science communities and their role within institutions
The session, How to Start an OS Community proposed by Yvana Glasenapp from Leibniz Information Centre for Science and Technology (TIB), revolved around three questions: What is an OS community, how to find those communities, and, how to support OS communities at one’s own institution. Eleven participants shared their experiences and it stood out to everyone that there is a lack of coordination and a fragmentation of OS communities on campuses. Additionally, a gap between provided infrastructures and the actual needs of the communities is common. The lively discussion around the above mentioned topics ranged from promoting beacon projects, establishing rewards and incentives for OS practices, to creating value sets within OS Communities. As a wrap-up, some helpful actions were identified: OS communities need supporting structures; case studies addressing actual research problems to show the benefits of OS, and key persons, like data stewards, who can distribute information within communities and advocate for OS practices. Notes of this session, including a list of useful resources, can be found here.
Library Outreach Activities
The session, How Can Libraries Support Researchers with Open Science, started with the question whether researchers would contact libraries with questions about Open Science or if libraries need to reach out to them more proactively. While researchers, who realize what kind of support libraries can offer, do consult the services offered, libraries in general need to promote their supporting services repeatedly on various levels. Furthermore, libraries can perform a connecting element between departments therefore enabling knowledge-exchange. Within the discussion different formats and inputs were mentioned which libraries could apply and try out, before evaluating what users might be more receptive to. However, the conclusion of this session is to move on quickly if formats are not working! Documentation on this session can be found here.
Open Science Conference
In his opening speech, Prof. Klaus Tochtermann stated that OS practices are moving forward since Open Science entered the European Research Agenda. When applying for EU funding, an OS declaration is needed and there are several European initiatives on OS assessment. However, clear commitments and specific guidelines are needed in order to push for more openness. Out of ten presentations at the Open Science Conference some focused on ways to further promote Open Science practices, and in the following we highlight some aspects.
In his talk, Prof. Daniel S. Katz (University of Illinois) stated that even though digitalization has opened up opportunities to share scientific ideas, methods and results, economic concerns and competition are still hampering full implementation of OS practices. On the one hand, researchers are not used to mechanisms of sharing and, on the other hand, commercial entities profit from restricting access. Another reason mentioned by Daniel Katz is that metrics for evaluating shared research objects are underdeveloped. With the FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable) Principles, there has been a focus on sharing and reusing Research Data. Katz posed the important question: What about other research objects? He added that there are differences in how non-data objects are created, used, stored and shared, but also how and where the object’s metadata is stored and indexed. There is a need for FAIR for non-data objects, for example for Research Software. He explained further, that software is unlike data in many aspects: it is executable, provides a tool, and is a creative work with different licensing and copyright practices. That’s why the FAIR4ResearchSoftware Working Group has been initiated in collaboration with FORCE11 and RDA. As principles on interoperability and reusability are quite different when compared to the principles for FAIR Data, Katz concluded that there is still a lot of work to do, and that future steps should involve further work on metrics, incentives and policies.
The project Road to Openness focuses on further incentivizing Open Science and was introduced by Dr. Verena Heise (Freelance Open Science Researcher). The project consists of an OS self assessment tool that has been developed with, and piloted, at three German universities. It is freely available online and,if used, provides insight on Open Science activities within an institution. Heise stressed the tool has not been developed for objective comparison between institutions or as a type of ranking tool. The assessment process consists of two stages. The first stage focuses on collecting information about the institute, e.g. on current Citizen Science practices. The institute can fill in all sorts of questions on its current Citizen Science practices, training and infrastructure. After completing all questions, during the second stage of the process, the institute receives the results and with these at hand the responsible parties can assess for themselves what they might want to improve on, and develop a roadmap for further improving their Open Science practices. Verena Heise stated that during the pilot phase, the project’s results have already shown that it is difficult to create a culture of openness in the current academic system and that there is a need to create intrinsic motivation for working openly. With the assessment tool, the conversation can be initiated. She added that there is a need to focus on reasons why Open Science is useful and on the promotion of good practices.
Dr. Tony Ross-Hellauer (Graz University of Technology) presented results of the ON-MERRIT project. The project’s main result is a confirmation of an already frequently described imbalance: OS cannot per se eliminate inequalities and might even create new ones. For example, simply publishing research as an Open Access publication does not automatically mean that the published information is available to all, in the sense of being understandable. Other findings of the study referred to the lack of incentives for OS practices for researchers. In order to make the most of the potential Open Science offers, proposals for action were developed in four main areas: „Resources of Open Research„, „Publication Charges and the Stratification of Open Access Publication„, „Societal Involvement in Research and The Formulation of Policies„, and „Reform of Reward and Recognition„. In close connection to the UNESCO recommendations, global scale thinking was recommended in order to seek international exchange and to develop common political approaches, thus ensuring the success of Open Science transformation.
Prof. Diethard Tautz (Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology) presented the online journal NAL-live as an infrastructure using the concept of Open Documents. This concept is straightforward: publications are published under the CC BY 4.0 license after a review process, and further developments in research, such as new findings or additions, can be added by anyone. Based on documentation and the possibility of renewed peer review processes, the documents can be updated repeatedly. Persistent identifiers are used to track changes and to allow the process of scientific research to be transparent. The project’s potential lies in terms of changing scientific publishing and involving a potential public. It remains to be seen how it can be successfully implemented and what role scientific societies such as the Max Planck Society can play here.
This year’s conference was organized in collaboration with the German Commission for UNESCO and the conference concluded with two sessions in the context of the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science: a panel discussion ‚Promoting Open Science globally: the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science‚ and a workshop on Open Science initiatives in the African continent. Until November 2021, 193 member states have adopted the Open Science Recommendation. Vera Lacoeuilhe (Permanent Delegation of Saint Lucia to UNESCO) added that the biggest challenge is yet to come: the implementation of Open Science. Dr. Peggi Oti-Boateng (UNESCO HQ) added that UNESCO is planning programs, an Open Science toolkit, funding mechanisms, and a global repository that maps existing Open Science guidelines to further implementation. The subsequent panel discussion focused on what should be prioritized in the coming years. Themes like equity (e.g. more women in leadership positions, and more cooperation and exchange with the Global South), universal access to knowledge and changing research assessment practices were mentioned. During the UNESCO Workshop: ‚Fostering Open Science in Africa – Practices, Opportunities, Solutions‘, 10 different Open Science projects were presented: national initiatives such as Eko Konnekt in Nigeria or Mboalab in Cameroon, but also pan-African initiatives like Libsense, Africarxiv, and Writing Hub Africa.
The wide variety of topics and lively discussions at the conference demonstrated that even though Open Science is moving forward, there is still a lot of work to do. It was stressed by many speakers that creating a true culture of openness remains a challenge. The UNESCO panelists added that it is a shared responsibility of all stakeholders to ensure that OS tools, principles and policies that are being developed, are put into practice. A truly open and inclusive research system can only be achieved if stakeholders from different backgrounds, disciplines and countries collaborate. Dr. Peggy Oti-Boateng concluded: „UNESCO wants science for People, Planet and Peace. Science that leaves no one behind.“