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Open science – more than just a buzzword

In recent years, the term open science has been increasingly featured both in policies and other texts of scientific and higher education institutions and their funders. There are also more and more educational and other events on the subject. One of the reasons for its popularity is the forthcoming EU Framework Program for Research and Innovation, Horizon Europe, as open science is set to be one of the main three pillars of this new program. Nevertheless, what open science actually means is not entirely clear to all researchers, let alone the general public. Is it just a buzzword or something more substantial?

According to one definition, open science is just science itself. In fact, at the core of the scientific method is reproducibility, which means the ability for other researchers to independently repeat a study using the same methodology and produce the same results. Reproducible research is not possible without openness and transparency. Thus, open science means practicing science in a way that others can participate and contribute. In discussions, it is often limited to open access to publications, but this is not enough; to truly ensure reproducibility, a researcher must comprehensively document the entire research cycle and share all the intermediate products, including research data. Open science is, therefore, an umbrella term that covers open access, open data, open methodology, open lab journals, open source, open software and hardware, open peer review, open education, etc. For an introduction to various aspects of open science, I recommend educational resources from the European project FOSTER.


Open science at the InnoRenew CoE

Since the InnoRenew CoE is a Horizon 2020 project, we are committed to open access publishing. In addition, leadership of the InnoRenew CoE has opted for voluntary participation in the Horizon 2020 open research data pilot aimed at improving both access to and re-use of research data generated from funded projects.

All participating projects had to prepare a data management plan (DMP) – a summary of the InnoRenew CoE’s DMP is available in Zenodo in the form of the poster that I presented at the 12th Plenary of the Research Data Alliance (RDA). This DMP follows the guidelines on FAIR data management in Horizon 2020 (the FAIR acronym means findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable) and also takes into account legal and ethical considerations related to the collection and storage of personal data in research on human subjects.

As there are no disciplinary repositories for most of the research areas we are dealing with, we decided to deposit data and other research results in the general-purpose repository Zenodo, where we created the InnoRenew CoE and Project research community. There you will find our articles, conference presentations, research data and program codes generated in research projects of the InnoRenew CoE and its partners.

In implementing open science, the InnoRenew CoE goes beyond the basic requirements of Horizon 2020. As a consulting statistician, one of my tasks is to help researchers prepare research data for submission to the repository. This data stewardship is an emerging profession in research environments. That was the aim of this year’s pilot CODATA/RDA data steward summer school in Trieste, which I attended. For the time being, only a few institutions can afford full-time data stewards – a good example, for instance, is the Delft University of Technology, where each faculty has its own data steward. In small institutions, such as the InnoRenew CoE, data stewardship tasks are shared among several employees. Part of good data stewardship is creating a culture of personal responsibility in the organisation.

I would also like to point out open innovation, another aspect of open science that plays an important role at the InnoRenew CoE. We are dealing with this topic within the project Revitalisation of traditional industry: An open innovation framework for Slovenia’s furniture sector, and doctoral student Barbara Rovere, an InnoRenew CoE assistant researcher, is exploring critical factors in open innovation in her doctoral work. We also foster an open innovation culture at the Living Lab InnoRenew, which is always open to new collaborations as this is the key to success for its members.

We are trying to disseminate the importance of open science and data management according to the FAIR principles beyond our institute. For instance, last year Dr Michael Burnard, the InnoRenew CoE’s deputy director and research group leader for the Human Health in the Built Environment research group, held a workshop on Managing open data on OA platforms. As an ambassador of RDA Europe for Engineering/Renewable materials myself, I encourage researchers to participate with this organisation, which works to reduce social and technical barriers of data sharing. And as a member of the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC) FAIR working group and coordinator of the Eurodoc Open Science working group, I participate in the development of open science policies. Last but not least, I would like to highlight the recently launched open access scientific journal Interdisciplinary Perspectives on the Built Environment (IPBE) – the first issue is to be published next spring, which is an important part of open science at the InnoRenew CoE.

Ana Slavec,
Consulting statistician at InnoRenew CoE