Open Science had an exceptional international conference on 6-8 September 2017 in Athens, Greece. Open Science Fair 2017 took place at Stavros Niarchos Foundation Center (SNFC) and was organized by the Department of Informatics of the University of Athens, Athena RIC and the National Library of Greece. The initiative was funded by the European projects OpenAIRE, OpenUP, OpenMinTeD, and FOSTER.
In OSFair 2017, people with diverse background were offered the opportunity to communicate and interact with each other: Personnel of academic libraries, researchers from various disciplines, open publishing and open technology specialists, policy makers, funders and students.
The event was honoured by the presence and speeches of the Greek Minister of Education prof C. Gavroglou, the Chairman of the Foundation for Research and Technology-Hellas and member of the Scientific Council of the European Research Council prof N.Tavernarakis, the well-known economist for the battle against poverty and U.N. adviser on sustainable development prof. J.D. Sachs, as well as the widely read and cited physician of Stanford University prof J.P.A. Ioannidis.
The attendees had the opportunity to broaden their knowledge by inspiring speeches and workshops, covering comprehensively all aspects of open science and at the same time highlighting its great value. Initiatives and practices towards this direction were presented, issues and next steps for its continuity were discussed.
The conference made clear that open science is about all the stages of the research cycle. It goes together with discoverability, accessibility, interoperability and reusability of research and results, it prerequisites transparency and equality to all with no exclusions. It also means open methodologies and open workflows, open standards and software, open access to publications and data, open peer review. And all that in a complexed socioeconomic, technological and political environment, with multiple stakeholders. As OpenUp project presented, open science is initiated by the researchers, the research programs and the research organizations. Publishers, libraries, journalists, science evangelists and service providers act as intermediaries. Recipients of open science are researchers, teachers, students, pupils and governments and all kinds of policy makers, doctors, journalists, businesses, industries, non-governmental organizations, citizen scientists and society in general.
The presentations emphasized and recognized the value of open science and the need to support it, from many points of view:
For the identification of workflows both in science and social science disciplines, the deployment and the growth of knowledge, its reuse and further processing, for the combination of public and private information and data.
For the information of the scientific community, the business people, the policy makers, the civil society.
For alternative metrics on the research impact and a fair evaluation of the scientists and the research or academic institutions. For the increase of their visibility and impact.
For solving / dealing effectively with large scale problems, such as poverty, world demographic explosion or natural disasters. Open scientific data means access to knowledge and allows better management of the current situation, may contribute decisively to the environmental protection and the improvement of the food chain.
For the industrial sector and the reinforcement of entrepreneurship and intersectoral cooperation. Open data is the new natural resource and the fuel for innovation, as IBM stated. Access and use especially of the available big data, support transparency and democracy and are important for the progress in sectors such as machine learning and artificial intelligence. At the same time, broad experience and expertise of the scientists, particularly on the processing of data, is highly appreciated by industry.
Open and reproducible science, means a new perspective for the future in all levels, is an alternative proposal with a view to a new, socially fair and sustainable model of economic development.
The progress towards open science
The overall impression at the conference was that open science is winning more and more supporters worldwide. It is the goal of the international initiative Open Access 2020 (ΟΑ 2020), it is a priority for the European Research Council (ERC) and it is supported by the implementation of the European Open Science Cloud that is currently under construction.
Open access publishing or “gold road” is increasing with speed. The Directory of Open Access Journals DOAJ, as presented by its representatives, started with 300 titles on 2003 and today it eventually includes 9000 scientific journals. New publishing platforms, that support open science by default, presented their services (F1000Research, Frontiers, PaperHive etc)
At the same time, researchers and institutions nowadays, have a wide choice of open access publishing options through the “green road”. Quality subject and institutional repositories offer easy self-archiving, covering several needs and preferences. ArXiv, Zenodo, BioRxiv, SocArxiv, Scielo, PsyArXiv were mentioned among others.
Many organizations shed light on more aspects of open science, such as the Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR) that focuses on the evolution of repositories (see Next Generation Repositories) and the Center of Open Science that works on open technologies and implements related projects (Open Science Framework among others).
Several scientific and other bodies deliberately invest on the change of the research publishing model, open access has often become a requirement for funding (e.g. in Horizon 2020). The European Commission has launched through the OpenAIRE a pilot project for finalized FP7 projects, in order to fund OA publications without Article Processing Charges (APCs).
The CORE service which is jointly funded by Jisc and the Open University provides a uniform environment for the search and retrieval of scientific publications in open subject and institutional repositories as well as in open publishing platforms. The University of Harvard emphasized the best practices for the transformation of the subscription-based scientific journals to open access journals (Journal-Flipping Project). On the other hand, Wellcome Trust charity foundation conducted a survey related to the communication of the research results, aiming to come to conclusions.
As discussed in the conference, beyond the general optimism, a number of issues remain unresolved and further action is needed in order to establish and further disseminate open science. All stakeholders should evolve towards this direction:
Researchers and institutions need to embrace open science approach, overcoming their hesitations and participating in open by default publishing platforms with their publications and data. In case the circumstances are not mature and / or this is not yet feasible, they should stay informed by websites such as SHERPA about the policies and their options for adopting open access within the current model. Additionally, in order to keep the copyright of their work, they are advised to attach an author addendum to the agreements with publishers, the legal text that SPARC Coalition recently developed. The adoption of alternative approaches on the evaluation of research (altmetrics), independent of impact factors, is also a wise choice.
General open science practices for researchers were described by FOSTER as follows:
Share protocols openly online and store data in the most open format possible
Use easily attainable software to facilitate reproduction of results
Publish preprints and be positive about open peer review
Cite open access versions of the literature, open data and open code
Acknowledge contributor roles in publications
Translate research objects in as many languages as possible
Openly share research hypothesis and proposals, encouraging feedback
Academic libraries from their side, have a very important role on the deployment of open science. They are the most appropriate to negotiate with the publishers about licensing, costs, sustainability and other aspects of openness that should be included in the agreements. The Open Access Principles for Negotiations with Publishers proposed by LIBER organization cover comprehensively all the above. Moreover, according to a report of the MIT libraries that was mentioned, libraries could transform into a global, interdisciplinary and interoperable open platform, provide a basis for the full lifecycle of information and support collaborative research and education worldwide.
Traditional publishers need to look for new balances and start by changing their attitude by facilitating and opening the access to the basics of science findings for all. Various methods such as market segmentation and scalable services, together with funding agencies’ support, may be the solution. Countries of the third world for example, that are not regular customers and will never be, could be given free access to scientific publications. At the same time, It is an opportunity to take advantage of the need for an infrastructure compatible with open science standards and move towards the design of open platforms and the development of related services.
Finally, open science prerequisites a change on the matter of strategic planning, at national, european and international level and demands high organizational and communication skills. Its continuity and sustainability may not be achieved without critical policy decisions. Anyone that influences the wider research context or is involved in technology evolution, as well as funding agencies and other actors, should have a common goal: the creation of large scale, public infrastructure and the parallel, complementary infrastructure and services by private sector. In such a way, research policies and workflows, infrastructure and services may be connected with the citizens. Open science will then be able to fulfill its mission, creating value for all stakeholders and above all social welfare.