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Open data, open research, open scholarship

Speed read
  • Policymakers understand the importance of open scholarship and support it.
  • However, there's still a long way to go — particularly in terms of improving reproducability of research.
  • Sharing data and knowledge is important in helping society tackle the major challenges of the 21st century.

The Research Data Alliance (RDA) is a global organization — supported by funding bodies in Europe, the US, and Australia — that has been established to improve data sharing for research. The Science Node has recently reported from both the RDA Sixth Plenary Meeting and the co-located 'e-infrastructures and RDA for data-intensive science’ workshop. Our third — and final — article from these events focuses on the ‘data and computing infrastructures for open scholarship’ track of the workshop.

Open scholarship is important for an open society and has the power to improve lives across the globe. However, achieving this vision may require the redesign, enhancement, or adaptation of the e-infrastructures used for conducting research and disseminating results.

Jarkko Siren, a project officer in the European Commission’s e-infrastructure unit, opened the first session of the workshop track. As well as drawing attention to the emphasis that has been placed on open data in the Horizon 2020 funding program, he used his presentation to speak about the need for transparency in research architectures: “Open scholarship requires new designs and architectures,” he says. “It requires transparency at all levels of the research life-cycle, which effectively leads to trust and uptake.” Read more about this in a recent discussion post from Siren.

Making open science a reality, and a reality check

Giulia Ajmonemarsan presented a new report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) entitled 'Making Open Science a Reality'. The report opens with these jarring words, which neatly sum up the scale of the challenge faced: “Science is the mother of the digital age. And yet, twenty-two years after CERN [the European Organization for Nuclear Research] placed the World Wide Web software in the public domain, effectively creating the open internet, science itself has struggled not only to ‘go digital’ but also to ‘go open’”. The full report, which includes an assessment of the progress made in several countries towards making the vision of open science a reality, can be read in full on the OECD website.

William Gunn, director of scholarly communication at Mendeley Ltd., spoke about the problem of irreproducibility in science. He cited research showing that around half of all research results cannot be reproduced — for a variety of factors — and argues that digital infrastructures have a key role to play in remedying this. Gunn suggested a number of specific steps for reducing reliance on contacting the original authors of research papers. In particular, he stressed the need to build tools to better capture the full research workflow, and to make these at least semi-automated where possible.

THOR starts with a bang

Several new EC-supported projects — funded under the Horizon 2020 program — were showcased as part of this workshop track. Among these was the THOR project (‘technical and human infrastructure for open research’), which was presented by Sünje Dallmeier-Tiessen of CERN. This 30-month project builds on the success of ODIN. It is working — through better integration of persistent identifiers — to establish seamless integration between articles, data, and researchers across the research lifecycle. Thus, the project collaborators aim to create a wealth of open resources and foster a sustainable international e-infrastructure. By doing so, they hope to reduce unnecessary duplication of work, improve economies of scale, enrich research services, and create new opportunities for innovation.

Another CERN representative to speak at the event was Tim Smith, who presented the research repository Zenodo, in support of open science. Read more about this in our feature article from the repository’s launch back in 2013.

Sharing for the good of society

The workshop track concluded with a panel discussion featuring several high-profile figures. During this, Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, president of the European Research Council, argued passionately for the importance of training people to have the right skills. “Research is very dynamic,” says Bourguignon. “The landscape is changing very, very quickly, and will continue to do so. We need to train people to become data scientists.”

Kathleen Shearer, director of the Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR) highlighted the need to look at infrastructure from a global perspective. This is key, she believes, if we’re going to use infrastructure to help tackle major global problems. She also highlighted the importance of openness, reusability, standards, interoperability.

Finally, Marie Farge, director of research at the French National Center for Scientific Research, emphasized the importance of not just sharing data, but also properly preserving it. “Sharing is not just about sharing in space, but also in time,” she says. “We’re building on past work and preparing work for future generations to build on”.

“Sharing is at the core of science,” continues Farge. “Science is part of culture and part of knowledge. We need to protect our right to share knowledge... it is a commons: something that everyone can use, but which no one owns.”

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