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Open Research, Open Science

I wanted to make a presentation about Open Research and Open Science for our internal doctoral seminar at the Dresden University of Technology (my slides from the seminar in German language are available here). For this purpose, I tried to sum up for myself, what Open Science and Open Research mean. I confess, I found it quite difficult. Anyway, this is what I came up with:

I started by trying to define the terms ‘open science’ and ‘open research. They are very often used synonymously, although I cannot agree, that they should mean the same. I therefore reviewed the definition ‘science’ and ‘research’.

Fig. 1 : Science and Research

There is a close connection between science and research. Science uses research, a process of systematic inquiry, as meant of gaining new knowledge (Bordens & Abbott, 2007, p. 2; Graziano & Raulin, 2009, p. 26). However, not all research takes place in science. In fact, scientific research has to fulfil very specific criteria (Heinrich, 1993, pp. 62-66; Shugan, 2004, pp. 174-175), e.g. be public, replicable, unprejudiced, independent and it must advance the state of the art (Heinrich, 1993, pp. 62-66; Shugan, 2004, pp. 174-175). Research outside these restriction is non-scientific. This does not mean it is worse than scientific research. It simply has different aims. (During my presentation, I had a little discussion with one of the participants, who basically differentiated between scientific research and bad research. I do not share this view. I agree with the authors cited here, that rigorous and valuable research exists outside of science. It just has different purpose and hence different restrictions).  But science is not just about research. According to Bordens & Abbott (2007) science is also a way of thinking and viewing the world. Going back to open science and open research, this would mean, that there is open research outside of open science and open science outside of open research.

Now, what does “open” mean? David (2004) offers a very nice historical overview of the development of science from secretive activities towards openness (see also Nielsen, 2008). According to them, openness developed from the need to judge scientific merit. David, den Besten & Schroeder (2009) describe two levels of openness: the openness of research process and the openness of the research results. These are similar to Merton’s (1979, pp. 223-280) communalism and universalism (four or nowadays five CUDOS by Merton – see also David et al., 2009). Communalism calls for the resignation of the intellectual property rights on scientists’ findings and for common access to resources. Universalism demands, that the ability alone should be used to judge the scientists and the quality of their results – not individual factors like race, nationality, religion etc. The European Charter for Researchers goes even further and asks researchers to carry out their research for the good of the mankind. I think this already poses many interesting questions. Why do researchers publish their results? Do they do it for career purposes or for the development of science and hence the society alone? I think, that different publishing practices result from these two aims (i.e. publish or parish).

Further questions arise, if we view the development of ICT and their influence on research. The possibilities created by the technology make us reflect, how open the science should be. Because now there are different levels of openness possible.

  • Publication of results – fine, but is a journal or a book open enough?
  • Availability of resources – then how about sharing data?
  • Free access to research projects – shall I then open my whole research process so that anyone can join any time?

These questions also mirror the areas associated to open science:  open access,  open data and open process (also open notebook and open source). I have collected a few links on these. This is of course not a full list – just a few places to get further information and ideas.

Open Access

Open Data

  • openPSI – making publicly collected data avalilable
  • Swivel – platform for sharing data
  • many eyes – platform for sharing data

Open Process

The discussions around open science and open research gave me lot to think about. I think there are no easy answers here. Everyone has to make a choice and find his or her position. The technology may act as an enabler, but the question of open science is more about culture and ethics (e.g. one of the presentation participants pointed out to me, that when collecting data in social sciences, the researchers assure the participants not to use the data for purposes other than this research – passing such data to others would not be ethical). Just as that there is science beyond scientific research – a particular way of thinking and viewing the world, there appears to me to really be open science beyond open research. The open research can utilize the chances the technology offers for sharing whatever we want. Open science, however, further calls for a culture of openness within science.

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5 Responses

  1. Very thoughtful post Helena – I’m glad I caught it via Bill Hooker on FriendFeed:

    http://ff.im/c6aK9

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jonathan Gray, nellapower. nellapower said: Open Research, Open Science http://ff.im/-c5O4f [...]

  3. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by nellapower: Open Research, Open Science http://ff.im/-c5O4f

  4. Bill Hooker linked to your blog in the “Science 2.0″ room on friendfeed: http://friendfeed.com/science-2-0/c7384119/open-research-science-helenas-blog I just gave it a read and loved it, thanks for sharing!

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