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A new approach to sharing the scientific resources that enable 21st century research

Image courtesy geralt, pixabay (CC0 Public Domain).

Sergio Andreozzi of EGI outlines the organization's vision for the Open Science Commons.

The Open Science Commons is a new approach to governing shared scientific resources that will help to shape research policies and maximize scientific outputs.

The term 'open science' calls for broad engagement in the scientific process, from production to dissemination. If successfully implemented, open science will stimulate larger collaborations and accelerate scientific discovery, ultimately bringing greater benefits for society.

From an organizational viewpoint, we can consider open science as a production and dissemination system that requires integrated, easy, and fair access to several shared resources (physical, digital, and intellectual). It is equally vital to have engaged communities that collaborate in the management and stewardship of the resources, as well as suitable governance mechanisms to manage access and resolve conflicts. Finally, it is also important to have financial support in place to ensure long-term availability.

So the question is, can open science be organized as a commons-based peer production process?

In this context, a 'commons' refers to the institutionalized community governance of the production and/or sharing of a particular type of resource, ranging from natural to intellectual. Successful examples of commons are: (1) Wikimedia Commons, an online database created to manage images and media files for Wikipedia in all languages; (2) the Genome Commons, the large collection of data generated by the Human Genome Project and available as a public resource; (3) the internet, a global communication infrastructure made of both public and private organizations and with an overarching governance with shared principles, norms, and rules that shape the evolution and use of the internet in an equitable and democratic way.

Within an Open Science Commons, researchers can easily access distributed sources of knowledge and develop skills; identify and book scientific instruments to conduct experiments; discover and access datasets for analysis and reuse; and access computing platforms, capacity, and tools to produce new research results. All the shared resources in the Open Science Commons will be managed collectively through multi-level governance models (e.g., community-specific, country-specific) that encourage sharing and promote collaboration.

Developing the Open Science Commons means, first of all, opening resources and lowering barriers to access. This can be achieved by adopting open standards for interfaces or formats, and open licenses for content-related resources. Resources from different domains should be easy to pool together and integrate into wider research processes. Secondly, there is need for rules to govern access to resources and their management. Thirdly, appropriate business models need to be in place to ensure long-term preservation of the research results, and that capacity can be expanded in line with user demand. Implementing this vision (and ensuring its healthy development) will require all key stakeholders to contribute - from funding agencies to the private sector, and from research infrastructures to knowledge institutions.

Zooming in on the digital part of research within the European landscape, we observe the emergence of various research infrastructures that will need access to communication, computing, and data infrastructures to perform collaborative compute- and data-intensive science. Such research infrastructures would benefit from a shared infrastructure backbone that offers the generic capabilities communities need to build their own research platforms. Important elements of this ideal shared backbone infrastructure are already present, but further work needs to be done both at the technical level (for greater integration) and at the organizational/governance level (for shared governance, harmonized access policies, and suitable business models that ensure long-term availability). The technical infrastructure would also need to be complemented with a knowledge infrastructure. This could, for example, take the form of a set of organized competence centers that provide access to expertise and support digital skills development.

As we continue to further develop the vision of the Open Science Commons, we invite you to provide your feedback and contribute through the dedicated website.

Read about the recent EGI Conference in Lisbon, Portugal, in the iSGTW article 'Opening science to the world; opening the world to science'.

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