Responsible Open Science public policies in Europe

Introduction — Definition of a responsible open science (OS) policy

Having presented an overview of the current state of OS in Europe with the Country Cards,[1] it is now possible to focus on OS national public policies. The analysis of the 22 selected policies will provide us with insights on what can be considered as a ‘responsible’ OS policy and thus be used on a later stage to produce a policy paper.

The following aspects will therefore be monitored in the light of the established definition in the methodology and in the current Open Science EU-frameworks – the explicit reference to FAIR Data Principles, RE/RI, Data Infrastructure and CS, the language availability in English, discipline-related perspectives and the type of mandate. A final definition for responsible OS policy is currently being developed by WP1 (Research Ethics and Research Integrity in Open Science) and WP2(EXPLORE: Social and Legal Issues of Open Science).

Mention of FAIR

The FAIR Data Principles – Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability, and Reusability – are a key concept of responsible OS. These principles, first developed in 2016, are currently unanimously supported, including in the EU´s Open Science Framework – as one of the EC’s eight ambitions of OS. There are all stated in the PSI Directive – which strategy can be summarised by the maxim “as open as possible, as closed as necessary”. Its mention in OS national public policies must therefore be monitored and included in this research as a clear responsible practice.

Despite the importance of FAIR Data Principles for OS, only roughly half of the selected national OS public policies mention it explicitly (10). This can be partly explained by the fact that the EU-frameworks – which support FAIR – are already implemented by the selected countries (the PSI Directive should have been implemented by the MS by the 16th July 2021), thus do not need to be included in national OS policies. But it could also be analysed in a time context: the majority of the policies implemented after 2016 (when the FAIR principles were first developed and published) do explicitly mention FAIR Data Principles (10 out of 18). Hence, there is now a clear consensus of its importance for OS in Europe.

Mention of RE/RI

One of the ROSiE project main goals is to foster RE and RI, to become a structural component of the OS framework. In this light, for a national OS public policy to explicitly mention RE/RI echoes strongly with our project´s aims and provides insightful examples of good practices.

The mention of RE and RI is rather uncommon in the selected national OS public policies analysed with only 6 explicit references. These gaps confirm therefore the relevance and necessity of WP5´s aims, particularly – the Strategic policy paper that will be developed based on the findings of this report.

Mention of Infrastructure

Open access (OA) infrastructure represents a main aspect of responsible OS. The requirement or support of this practice in a national OS/OA policy should therefore be encouraged.

However, if such national support in the OA practice is already widespread in the existing national OS national public policies in Europe with 20 mentions, these indications often lack preciseness. As presented before, supporting the use of open data repositories in the case of countries that do not have national repositories can be a potential source of confusion for the researchers. Quite often, the policies mention the need to publish research on “the suitable repository” (mentioned in the National Policy of the Republic of Cyprus for Open Access to Scientific Information published in 2016), without any more clear guidance. This can be understood as a strategy – the policy leaves room for individual decisions – but can eventually lead to ineffectiveness.

Mention of Citizen Science

Citizen science (CS) is particularly important within the OS framework since the availability of data is partly aimed at enabling citizens to take an active part in all aspects of science and research. The mention of citizen science – which has been presented as one of the eight ambitions in OS by the EC – in an OS public policy can therefore represent a criterion for ‘responsibility’.

CS is explicitly mentioned in 9 selected national OS public policies. This rather low proportion can however be comprehended by the fact that a responsible OS environment and policy would eventually be positive and support citizen science initiatives. To include CS reference into a national OS public policy would nonetheless send a clear signal of support for such practice, in accordance with the current EU-frameworks, which should thus be encouraged.

Language availability in English

The availability of public OS documents in English and other languages in addition to the national language should be strongly supported and advocated for. In a context of expanding universalisation and international cooperation, particularly in the EU, the accessibility of data, good practices and policies should not be interrupted by issues of language accessibility.

The majority of selected countries implemented their OS national policies in their native language and in English (14 policies out of 22). The language availability of national OS public policies is thus rather widespread in Europe, but gaps remain. It may also be the case that for some countries another language than English may be more appropriate in addition to the national language.

Discipline-related perspective

This report aims at identifying potential discipline-related improvement regarding national OS public policies. The mapping of existing discipline-related perspectives in the selected OS policies comes therefore in conformity with this goal and will be later mobilizable during the development of discipline-related guidelines.

It appears that with 12 National OS public policies addressing discipline-related particularities, this practice is somehow accepted. However, these mentions are in most cases not defined, nor explained in-depth. This can be explained by the wish for clarity and inclusivity of these policies which aim to be clear and general – reusable in each field. However, this practice tends to overlook the particularities and different needs of each scientific field. This also confirms the relevance and needs for the guidelines that will be produced by WP5.

Type of Mandate & Scope

The last aspect analysed is the type of mandate and the scope of the policies. These data informed the report on research environment and strategy in place in the selected countries regarding the existing OS framework. It is important to keep in mind that each country has its own particular strategy, but also legal settings, which has to be respected and followed when implementing new policies. A responsible national OS public policy in one country could not therefore always be implemented as it is in another one due to local legal and administrative particularities and preferences.

It appears that in term of mandate, no clear conclusion can be drawn. National policy and national strategy are the two most favoured types of policy. The soft mandates have as well a limited popularity among the selected national OS public policies; however, there is no correlation between the type of policy and its mandate. This part is therefore mostly related to a specific phrasing, thus a strategy in place, or to an administrative and/or cultural research environment.


[1] For more information of the Country Cards see article “Country Cards of open science policies.”

This passage is part of D5.1: Report on existing policies and guidelines written by Mathieu Rochambeau, Teodora Konach.