Conceptions and understandings of Open Science
Conceptions and understandings of Open Science
The eventual impact of ROSiE and other projects and initiatives to support and promote open science is crucially dependent on producing outputs aligned to the needs of stakeholders and end-users. This requires understanding how relevant communities perceive open science. To learn more about how stakeholders conceptualise and understand open science, a number of interviews were conducted within the framework of ROSiE; interviewees were asked to describe what they associate with the expression. Moreover, several probes during the interviews helped shed light on how they view open science generally. This section summarises prevalent conceptualisations and understandings. Taking them into consideration during the guide and equip phases will help ROSiE to develop products customised to stakeholder needs.
Overall, interviewees view open science favourably, not least because many of them not only are open science experts but also advocates in favour it . Many emphasised that they share many or all of the values underpinning open science, such as availability and transparency.
This positive view was also echoed when asked whether open science is rather a promise or a problem. All interviewees viewed open science mostly as a promise, some initially even saw only few challenges. However, with one exception all interviewees identified significant challenges created by the transition to open science over the course of the interview. The following quotes illustrate the perspective most interviewees seemed to share.
The interviewee who did not name any major challenges often seemingly referred to how open science could elevate research quality once fully implemented. In other words, she focused mostly on benefits on the system level, and she repeatedly stressed that in her view open science is by and large a solution to many problems of the current research system. Yet even she pointed out that a move to open science requires effort from researchers, and that this indeed might be perceived as challenging by some.
In general, many answers to the question what open science means to them centred around the notion that open science means open access to knowledge for everybody, although some interviewees also emphasised that openness should not necessarily mean access without any restrictions in case restrictions are justified and access mechanisms transparently described. When asked about who benefits most from open science, several interviewees stated that researchers are the ones who potentially gain the most. Two interviewees explicitly mentioned researchers from the global south in this regard.
With respect to topics covered, all interviews focused on open access to publications and research data. Some interviewees also mentioned citizen science as a core component of and laudable development related to open science, and some discussed explicitly if and how research processes could and should be made more transparent and open. Perhaps interestingly, no interviewee explicitly mentioned open educational resources as a core component of open science, yet all agreed that training is crucial to support the transition to open science.
Interviewees favouring restrictions under certain conditions pointed out that data curation is costly, and that data effectively has become a currency enormously valuable to, for example, several tech companies and insurers. Consequently, the relationship between open science and data commercialisation might merit closer scrutiny. Besides, one interviewee explained that in his view decisions whether to open data should also be informed by considerations whether the data is potentially useful for other researchers. If this is not the case (as, for example, in some small exploratory studies), the costs related to opening data are not outweighed by the potential benefits. Also, concerns about intellectual property rights and patents often enter the equation when weighing whether data or results can be made open.
On the whole, it seemed that researchers and research managers who closely interact with researchers on a frequent basis are most prone to identify major barriers imposed by the current research system that exacerbate the transition to open science, although the small number of interviewees of course does not allow any firm conclusions on whether this pattern holds true in general.
A more general challenge in efforts to support and promote open science was highlighted by a policymaker from the arts and humanities, who stressed that many concepts of open science are not easily transferable to these fields of research. It is, for example, not immediately obvious what the specific meaning of, for example, reproducibility would be for historians and other researchers from other disciplines that employ primarily interpretive methodologies. Even the term open science can be perceived as excluding the arts and humanities because they, strictly speaking, are not considered sciences in the anglophone world. Even though the interviewee did not delve into more inclusive framings in greater depth, open research and open scholarship were mentioned as possible alternatives. This challenge might be exacerbated by the fact that especially scholars from the arts and humanities are very aware that language cannot be fully neutral. As a result, framing open science appropriately matters, perhaps to a larger extent than often recognised. However, framing was not only mentioned as an important issue by stakeholders from the arts and humanities. Also an interviewee from the life sciences stated that he would recommend to rather use responsible science than open science as umbrella term, and to conceptualise openness as conducive to responsibility and trustworthiness (without, however, being a sine qua non). He expounded that in his experience the expression open science is viewed negatively by many researchers because they incorrectly assume that it suggests openness without limits. Along similar lines, several interviewees as well as other stakeholders in informal conversations mentioned that speaking of fair (or FAIR) rather than open data could help researchers and other stakeholders understand that open science means “as open as possible, as closed as necessary” rather than openness no matter what.