October 1, 2015

A course on Open Science - why now?

"What science becomes in any historical era depends on what we make of it" (Sandra Harding)
Open Science 우산 | by eotls4387

The idea to create a course on issues in Open Science practices came in 2014, when I tried to grasp the diversity of concepts under the umbrella term of Open Science. Then, a public consultation was launched to collect perspectives on Science 2.0, its benefits and challenges.

Furthermore, at that time we witnessed global turmoil in the relationships between universities and publishing houses.

Last but not least, Open Science and the advancement of Open Access to publications and research results will be one of the priorities of the Dutch Council presidency of the European Union in 2016. Besides renegotiating transparent contracts with scientific publishing houses, emphasis will be on the legal necessities and modifications to existing legal frameworks to make copyright legislation better suited for Open Science, with special regard to the question of re-usability of copied or recorded materials.

Suddenly Open Science became a buzzword that made its long term advocates wonder how fast professional buzzword compliance and open-washing will take over....

In any case, Open Science promises to be a rich resource for STS inquiry. We can start by looking at the policy imaginiaries currently at work.

Defining Open Science
"Open means anyone can freely access, use, modify, and share for any purpose (subject, at most, to requirements that preserve provenance and openness)" Open Definition

Today's Open Science movement grew bottom-up from scientific communities influenced by free (and open-source) software and the free culture movements of the 1980s and 1990s. It has found its way into policy-making in the early years 2000 with the shift to Open Access publishing in science and via the need for restructuring research infrastructures for e-science.

Open Science is based on the idea that scientific knowledge of all kinds should be openly shared as early as is practical in the discovery process. By demanding maximum transparency and shareability in knowledge production and transfer as well as the participation of (all) relevant stakeholders in the scientific process, the Open Science movement strives to increase
  • reproducibility and accountability
  • re-usability and new applications
  • collaboration and societal participation in science.
Realms of Open Science practices include Open Access, Open Research Data, Open Methods, Open Education, Open Evaluation, and Citizen Science, all based on sustainable research infrastructures and supported by Open Policies in all fields of science, including social sciences and humanities.

With Open Science becoming a buzzword in science policy and beyond time is ripe to look closely at the diversity of Open Knowledge cultures in science and humanities. While the topic is still hot and the terminology is still in the process of negotiation, we can approach its aspects from several perspectives, drawing on literature from stakeholders such as science, policy, science administration, technology, NGOs and Open Science activists. We can investigate promises and criticism in interchanging settings with STS methods.

From Science 2.0 to Open Science

In 2015 after the public consultation had been held and discussion of its results within the Council the European Commission announced that it would from now on use the term "Open Science" pervasively for what was formerly known as "Science 2.0". Science 2.0 – referring to the Web 2.0 and its potential as interactive social network – should foster the multiple transitions in science and research driven by "the enormous growth of data, the globalisation and enlargement of the scientific community to new actors, and the need to address societal challenges."

There they are, the alleged drivers of change: big data, digital technologies and globalisation, as well as the need for a problem-oriented science. This focus on Open Science is confirmed by the results of the consultation "Science in Transition". For a majority of respondents (98% out of ca. 500 respondents totally or partially agreed), "the availability of digital technologies and their increased capacity were key drivers for Open Science".  On the basis of this consultation the Commission adopted the term of Open Science. It was selected from six options by 43% of respondents as well as discussed in several stakeholder workshops as the most convenient terminology. Other suggestions for marking the current transitional phase in science included "Participatory Science", "Science Highway", and "Better Science".  Others recommended a terminology that does not exclude social sciences and humanities such as "Open Research", and "Open Scholarship". However, the majority of respondents has decided for "Open Science", and from now on at least until 2020 this will be the official terminology to address challenges of science as well as the academic world and research practices in transition. Such visions will affect collaborative infrastructures, intellectual property rights and their applicability, evaluation systems and alternative metrics, sustainable data repositories, and so forth. Last but not least Open Science should help with dismantling the institutional knowledge silos in academia for interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary cooperation.

For the time being the move towards Open Science seems only consequent since the EU is pushing Open Access since 2006 by including it in the 7th framework programme, and making it mandatory for funded research in Horizon 2020. Plus with industry already speaking about "Industry 4.0", Science 2.0 was certainly not state-of-the-art anymore.

Policy imaginaries

Bearing in mind the performative power of language and the potential to realise what it says, we can look further into terminological realms of Open Science. With the formulation of three strategic priorities: Open Innovation, Open Science, and Openness to the World the commissioner of Research and Innovation in close cooperation with other commissioners calls for a broad and comprehensive policy vision. "Open Science aims at transforming sciencethrough ICT tools, networks and media, to make research more open, global,collaborative, creative and closer to society."

Hence Open Science is part of the EU Digital Agenda, as well. Does Openness in science mean to remove the barriers that block free flow of knowledge within the Digital Single Market? How will copyright reforms then deal with information commons and global collaboration as promoted by Open Science?

Potential for commercialisation is now mainly ascribed to the technical innovation deriving from the Open Science movement. So this is how the wind blows.

Thus, we understand that with the establishment of Open Innovation ecologies science could help economic growth, foremost by better commercialising research results. This is somehow managed through changing inbound and outbound flows of knowledge in science and industry being part of society, or as Henry Chesbrough would put it: "the funnel between producer and users now has many holes". What a wonderful image to use when describing a new kind of innovation that stands for "solid growth, jobs and a sustainable future". 

However this works, the success of Open Innovation is closely tied to policy's capability to manage and guide complex negotiation processes with stakeholders pursuing very different goals.

Calling and inscribing
Open Science has been included into the "Science with and for Society" work programme of Horizon 2020, the current research framework programme of the European Union. For the moment there are mostly open calls for innovative projects in text and data mining, communication of research results and measuring of impact. In that regard Open Science is handled as the solution to a better, more transparent and effective science, one that eradicates fraud, enhances reproducibility, and confronts redundancy. We read "Elements of Open Science will also gradually feed into the shaping of a policy for 'Responsible Research and Innovation' and contribute to the realisation of the 'European Research Area' and the 'Innovation Union', the two main flagship initiatives for research and innovation.".  Still open are of course concrete policy measures besides inscribing the terminology into the work programmes. Recently it was announced that a policy platform was set up to associate the main stakeholders of an Open Science agenda: New policy Initiative: The Establishment of an Open Science Policy Platform

What is in it for STS?
It seems rather simplistic to regard openness as accessibility and transparency only in terms of meeting society's expectations, or of making science easier to understand. Likewise to ascribe the transition mainly to new ICTs would be too deterministic. Surely, the internet and social media have brought about new modes of socially produced knowledge and the creation of new socio-epistemic spaces. Open Science is part of a broad shift in networked societies. But it is more than technique, it encompasses the experimentation with modalities of shared production, (re-)use, and (re-)distribution of knowledge and common goods. New forms of openness include the creation of new environments for public debate and participation. Besides hoping that policy will not oversee this important dimension of "Open Innovation", we can also make it productive for STS inquiry. So many research questions are buzzing. Among them we could study:
  • Socio-political dimensions of Open Science (OS): values, ideologies, and hegemonies in historical and contemporary OS discourses; relations between OS and neoliberalism, performance cultures, and science – industry relationships
  • Socio-technical dimensions of OS: infrastructures, institutions, norms, standards, materials, exploitations.
  • Epistemological politics in OS: OS and the production, circulation and evaluation of knowledge; incorporation of OS in science education and training
  • Open Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts (SSHA): extending open media (open labs, open notebooks, open learning, open data) to research, educational and dissemination practices in SSHA;
  • OS and governance: Open Access and data sharing policies and practices
  • OS implications: reproducibility of research; peer production; Responsible Research and Innovation; Research Ethics.
  • Open STS: opening up STS practices in research, education and political engagement
Upcoming are two conferences that will host sessions tackling these issues:
  1. 4S-EASST 2016 Barcelona: http://www.nomadit.co.uk/easst/easst_4s2016/panels.php5?PanelID=3966
  2. Critical Issues in Science, Technology, and Society Studies 2016: http://conference.aau.at/event/46/page/7 

[Further reading] Nielsen, Michael. Doing science in the open. 2011.

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