A snapshot of open science today: change requires common policiesOpen-access publishing boosts the visibility of academic work
Researchers argue that there is a lack of incentives to increase open access publication
The UOC is working in Europe to promote open knowledge
Just over twenty years ago, a meeting in Budapest sparked the beginnings of what is now known as open science, a new way of conducting research that seeks to make it better, more collaborative and more transparent. However, despite many advances, there is still a long way to go before this transition is complete. A new study -an open acccess scientific paper- with the participation of Candela Ollé and Alexandre López Borrull, researchers and members of the Faculty of Information and Communication Sciences at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC), together with researchers from the universities of València, Barcelona and Navarra, has analysed the main drivers and perceived barriers currently affecting its implementation in Spain.
According to López Borrull, who is also a member of the Learning, Media and Entertainment research group (GAME), "open science questions used to start with 'why' or 'what for'. Now they are mostly asking 'how'." The project has collected the opinions of different stakeholders in the science system around a number of pillars of open science. On the whole, it seems that change will only be achieved if a clear and common policy framework is put in place to organize the assessment system and if the system is given the necessary funding to support it. At present, new legislation on science and universities does provide for open science, though it remains to be seen to what extent the implementation of these laws will actually promote it in the academic system.
The study, organized around interviews and surveys, has gathered the views of researchers, evaluators, journal editors, vice presidents of universities and library staff. Work of this type is usually based solely on the opinion of the first group and generally only through surveys, but according to Ollé, "one of the article's merits is that it includes the perspective of all five key players. It addresses them and then extracts an overall view with each of the contributions."
Specifically, and with regard to open access to publications and their publication in repositories, the fact that they can increase their impact and visibility is recognized as a positive factor. However, there is a lack of institutional policies to encourage or make this compulsory, as well as a demand for curricular and economic incentives for their promotion. A telling indication of the road ahead is that, despite the fact that the Science Act of 2011 requires the open sharing of documents resulting from publicly funded calls, only 58% of research projects had done so two years after its entry into force.
Something similar happens in relation to the use of open data in research. There is a clear awareness of its benefits, but there is a lack of overarching policies or strategies. According to Ollé, "each university has its own ways of acting and there are many differences between them in terms of their structure and level of commitment. We need to have shared rules of the game, bearing in mind that the panorama is complex, especially for young researchers." These researchers, who depend to a large extent on their publications to continue their academic careers, show more reluctance to share data that they have worked hard to obtain and that they often intend to make profitable in the following years.
One of the keys to progress in open science is the evaluation of research. At present, the traditional system based on the impact factor of the journals in which research is published – "which was not designed for its current use," according to Ollé – coexists with other alternative systems, which are more in line with the principles of open science. However, different stakeholders stress that there are still no clear guidelines, hampering open science's implementation. In order to promote change, the European Union, the European University Association and over 350 organizations from across Europe – including the UOC – are calling for the introduction of qualitative aspects in scientific assessment and an end to the inappropriate use of bibliometric indicators in this field.
"Open science has become a mainstream idea. Going against it is now perceived as politically incorrect, and this has been a great achievement of communication in recent years," explained López Borrull. The opinions presented in the new study lead to the conclusion that now is the right time to move forward with its implementation, but that the change can only be completed if there is a clear institutional will to do so.
"Our study shows a current snapshot of the barriers and the drivers that would pave the way towards open science. The research provides useful and applicable knowledge that should help in the implementation of new policies, because these are the ones that determine what people do," added the UOC researcher. Or, as the article concludes: "When the right structure and incentive are in place, researchers deliver."
Change is under way
Although the current system of scientific assessment gives priority to quantity over quality – the reality known as 'publish or perish' – Pastora Martínez Samper, the UOC's Vice President for Globalization and Cooperation, said that change is under way: "In Europe, a coalition of organizations is being created to implement a system of assessment that prioritizes the quality and diversity of research, under the auspices of the European Commission." In this situation, the International Open Access Week will be held from October 24 to 30.
"The coalition will be launched this year, made up of the institutions that sign up to the commitments agreed in a collaborative agreement published in July," she added. "The UOC has been involved in the debates and we have begun the internal debate to decide whether to join the coalition," she concluded.
The UOC is committed to open knowledge
The UOC, in addition to recently creating of the Open Science new unit in the Office of the Deputy General Manager for Research and Innovation, is a university that is firmly committed to open knowledge, with a comprehensive approach that goes beyond science to include learning resources and open innovation processes. "We have created institutional structures to promote change, such as the institutional policy that was approved last year, or our support for DORA, the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment, which we signed in 2019. Our strategy is set out in the UOC's Open Knowledge Action Plan, designed and implemented in a participatory way by the university's academic and management teams," explained Martínez Samper.
Since the plan was approved, "the number of academic articles in our open institutional repository – the O2 Repository – has more than doubled," added the vice president, who goes on to say that the number of learning resources and students' final projects available in open access has increased by almost 40%.
Aurora González Teruel; Alexandre López Borrull; Gema Santos Hermosa; Francisca Abad García; Candela Ollé; Rocío Serrano Vicente. Drivers and barriers in the transition to open science: the perspective of stakeholders in the Spanish scientific community. Profesional de la Información. 2022, May. DOI: 10.3145/epi.2022.may.05.
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