10/22/21 · Health

The pandemic confirms that promoting open science benefits scientific research

The UOC makes a commitment to open knowledge with a specific plan and policy
International Open Access Week, which this year will be held with the theme of "It Matters How We Open Knowledge" takes place in the week of 25 to 31 October
On 26 October the Government of Catalonia and the UOC will organize an online round table about open data and COVID-19
Research on COVID-19 has also advanced thanks to open science (photo: Louis Reed)

Research on COVID-19 has also advanced thanks to open science (photo: Louis Reed)

A subscription to a paid scientific journal can cost up to €40,000 per year, and a researcher wishing to publish in one of those journals may have to pay between €500 and €5,000 per paper. In this context, the pandemic has shown that peer-reviewed scientific papers (those that have been reviewed by experts before publication) published in open-access journals and open-access scientific data facilitate scientific research, as claimed by UNESCO.

"In the early days of the pandemic, scientific journals published articles on SARS-CoV-2 as open-access content, helping both healthcare professionals and the scientific community collaborate on a global scale," explained Marta Aymerich, the vice president for Strategic Planning and Research of the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC).

According to Aymerich, apart from the pandemic crisis, "open access is a good thing because it makes research accessible to anyone wishing to consult it, whether their aim is to learn more, apply its results or build further knowledge." "Furthermore, thanks to open access, whether or not a particular piece of scientific work becomes known does not depend on a journal's self-serving interests but on the interest sparked by the research itself, which increases the likelihood of collaboration," she added.

During International Open Access Week, which will take place from 25 to 31 October, the UOC will be highlighting its commitment to its researchers sharing scientific results – as well as other knowledge generated by various groups at the University – as open-access content, as per its Open Knowledge Plan. As part of this Plan, earlier this year the University approved an Open Knowledge Policy that promotes open-access availability not only of scientific and academic publications but also of students' publications, the University's own documents and research data.

The aim is to "strengthen and consolidate our commitment to the open-access model that is spreading around the world", said Pastora Martínez-Samper, vice president for Globalization and Cooperation, who is taking part in national and international forums to promote open science. "We are turning the UOC into an open hub that projects knowledge while connecting with external contributions and prospering," she emphasized.

Researchers committed to sharing knowledge

The search for scientific solutions to the COVID-19 crisis has heated up the debate on the need to share knowledge. "We must support public publication and review platforms," says Alexandre López-Borrull, a researcher and member of the Learning, Media and Entertainment (GAME) group of the UOC's Faculty of Information and Communication Sciences. López-Borrull highlighted the problems involved in having to pay not just to read scientific content, but also to publish it: "If you charge for publishing but not for reading, everyone can read content, but not everyone can publish it".

Another possibility is to "put in place additional mechanisms for assessing scientific production that support the open-access publication policy," said Professor Albert Sangrà, a researcher in the Edul@b group of the Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences. "The scientific community values open-access journals with high impact factor levels [an indicator for comparing publications within a scientific field], although many of them are not properly indexed," added Sangrà.

Sharing scientific data

In addition to publications, open access also entails sharing research data. Diego Redolar, deputy dean of research at the Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences and a researcher in the Cognitive Neurolab group of the Faculty of Health Sciences, said that in neuroscience – his specialist field – there are several open-access and online databases containing various types of useful information. "We shouldn't be reluctant to publish our studies: they are treated very carefully, and their publication means we can work with a larger set of refined data".

According to these researchers, there is still room for improvement in the quality of databases in fields such as education. Juliana Raffaghelli, who is also a researcher in the Edul@b group, noted that "education research uses data collected in class, in interviews or in focus groups, and most of it cannot be reused because it lacks the necessary quality".

Raffagheli is concerned about uses of certain open data such as social media image repositories, as they can end up being used in ethically dubious ways. "I've learned to anonymize my data and work with a type of open access that requires users to identify themselves and give reasons for using them," she concluded.

Round table

On Tuesday 26, at 4 p.m., the UOC will be conducting an online discussion about how the open data shared by the Government of Catalonia facilitated the communication of what was happening in relation to the pandemic in real time, helping people to explain its evolution, and enabling both the administration and the public to make better informed decisions.

In this round table will participate Pastora Martínez, Alexandre López-Borrull and Lídia Arroyo, Gender and ICT (GenTIC) researcher, from the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3).


The UOC's research and innovation (R&I) is helping overcome pressing challenges faced by global societies in the 21st century, by studying interactions between technology and human & social sciences with a specific focus on the network society, e-learning and e-health.

Over 500 researchers and 51 research groups work among the University's seven faculties and two research centres: the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3) and the eHealth Center (eHC).

The University also cultivates online learning innovations at its eLearn Center (eLC), as well as UOC community entrepreneurship and knowledge transfer via the Hubbik platform.

The United Nations' 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and open knowledge serve as strategic pillars for the UOC's teaching, research and innovation. More information: research.uoc.edu #UOC25years

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