Open Science: How to Implement It in a Multidisciplinary Faculty – 7 Recommendations

An interview with Ari J. Asmi

Ari J. Asmi is research infrastructure coordinator at the University of Helsinki, Faculty of Science, a multidisciplinary faculty. There he has been involved in the process of developing common and workable Open Science recommendations with all stakeholders for the medium-sized science-oriented university faculty. The result is seven recommendations, which he already presented at the Open Science Conference 2021 in a poster presentation.

Poster Seven Recommendations presented at the Open Science Conference 2021.

In the interview, he reports on how the recommendations came about, why it is so important to also have Open Science sceptics involved, what the biggest challenges were and still are in developing and implementing them, and what he would advise others who would themselves like to create suitable recommendations for a more Open Science practice at their own faculty.

Ari, you accompanied the process of developing a common Open Science policy at the Faculty of Science at the University of Helsinki. What was the outcome of this process?

We created a working group, with the help of the dean and the faculty administration. This group included representatives from all divisions of the Faculty of Science at the University of Helsinki, and importantly did not have only “Open Science advocates”, but mostly normal scientists and research coordinators from different divisions. We agreed that the Open Science recommendations should be easy to implement, with relatively quick time-scale (from months to few years), not resource demanding, and above all – acceptable to the science community in the faculty. This led to a suitable ambition level for the recommendations, which in turn helped their acceptance in the faculty. We agreed on seven key recommendations:

  1. Set the overall faculty policy on science products: “as open as possible, as closed as necessary”.
  2. Value the Open Science products in the staff annual development discussions.
  3. Consider Open Science products in unit, department and tenure track evaluations.
  4. Require listing of Open Science products in recruiting.
  5. Create a short, clear and well documented knowledge base of Open Science best practices in the faculty.
  6. Organise structured staff training on the best practices, facilitate peer support, and Open Science culture in the faculty.
  7. Develop Open Science content for curriculum MSc and Doctoral programmes.

Open Science recommendations should be easy to implement, with relatively quick time-scale (from months to few years), not resource demanding, and above all – acceptable to the science community in the faculty.
– Ari J. Asmi

The first recommendation is more a statement, second to fourth are based on long term change in internal science evaluation towards openness, fifth and sixth on helping the faculty staff to adjust for Open Science, and seventh towards future generations. A more detailed version of the recommandations can be found in this document: Open Science Recommendations for the Faculty of Science.

Open Science Recommendations for the Faculty of Science.

A key point was also to always look for a holistic view on scientific end products, not only on scientific journal articles. This includes then, e.g., software, datasets, teaching material, etc. Another key point for us was not to prescribe value difference between open/closed scientific products, but instead just highlight the openness in all activity, and asking to justify the closed products if needed.

(How) Have you practically implemented the seven recommendations in the faculty?

The recommendations were accepted with enthusiasm on the faculty board level and from the dean, which made including the development discussion and staff recruitment changes in principle easy. They were faculty decisions, however, so I am not sure how well they have yet been implemented by the divisions’ administrations. The knowledge base is clearly more effort requiring part, and even with some level of resources, it is very dependent on finding proper contact points on each division (and even individual groups) to give information on domain-specific repositories, journals, etc. I am now personally trying to recruit semi-volunteers to do these. The training part is quite well dependent on the knowledge base, and the inclusion of new Open Science courses to curricula will most likely happen on the next round of MSc and PhD programme development.

What were your biggest challenges? What were the biggest concerns from the faculty and researchers? How were you able to overcome the obstacles and convince the persons concerned?

The main issue came from time and resource limitation of researchers. There is already a lot of “extra” work added to the researchers, as administrative staff has been reduced, and some of the Open Science relevant tasks (e.g. data management plans) are seen by some researchers as additional burden. This was somewhat reflected on the response for the plan, and how we developed it. The idea of having a common knowledge base was directly responding to the idea of reducing time required for these tasks. Also, some worries were about too rapid changes on how research and researchers are evaluated, making career planning challenging. This was responded by specifically avoiding any specific value for Open Science products in comparison to traditional evaluation criteria.

To what extent were and are libraries involved in this process?

We had a few times some contact with the university library, and I am personally well connected to some parts of their team on Open Science. The recommendations themselves did not go through any kind of close evaluation with them, but their services will be of course extremely important for the knowledge base, training and potentially even career advancement follow up, i.e. on following the publication of Open Science products.

What are your tips for other faculties that would like to anchor these principles and put them into practice?

An important part was to have a working group with enough of sceptical people along with Open Science enthusiasts. It is easy to come up with very idealistic approaches, which cannot then be implemented. Ambition is good, but realistic and short-to-medium time frame and minimal resource needs worked at least for us well. Support from top level (faculty dean and university strategy) is important, but these things have to be supported from bottom as well – so having diversity is excellent addition.

We were talking to Ari J Asmi.

This article emerged from the Open Science Conference 2021. The next International Open Science Conference (#OSC2022) will be held on March 08-09, 2022. Stay tuned for more information on the conference website.

You may also find this interesting:

  • Open Science Recommendations for the Faculty of Science (University of Helsinki).
  • Open science recommendations for a multidisciplinary Faculty – goals, process & challenges.
  • Open Science Conference 2021: On the Way to the “New Normal”.
  • Open Science: Grassroots Initiative from Students for Students at the University of Amsterdam.
  • Barcamp Open Science 2021: Opening up new perspectives.
  • Research Data Management Project bw2FDM: Best Practice for Consultations and Training Seminars.
  • Open Science Podcasts: 7 + 3 Tips for Your Ears.
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    Open Science: Grassroots Initiative from Students for Students at the University of Amsterdam

    The Student Initiative for Open Science (SIOS) at the University of Amsterdam was initiated and is still run by students. The grassroots movement wants to introduce students as early as possible, voluntarily and sometimes playfully, to the sometimes quite abstract subject area of open practices and thus make university life easier for students. Good academic practice should be learned and internalised as early as possible, is the motto.

    Marla Dressel and Franziska Nippold from SIOS presented the project at the Open Science Conference this year. Now we have spoken with them and asked them about their motivation, because there are no credit points for the commitment. In the interview, they also tell us how their university environment reacted to the grassroots initiative and how academic libraries can support them. At the end, there are starting points and links for anyone who would like to establish a similar movement at her/his university.

    An Interview with Marla Dressel and Franziska Nippold

    Your grassroots initiative is very interesting as it targets Open Science education for students at the University of Amsterdam. What was your motivation?

    A course called “Good research practices” at our Psychology master’s programme was an important motivating factor. The course teaches students how to conduct reliable science and discusses current research practices. Fellow students of ours found it quite disappointing that they learned Open Science only during their master’s degree and many programmes do not offer such courses at all. Besides, most Open Science initiatives mainly target PhDs, post-docs, and professors while not adapting resources and materials to students’ needs.

    They felt that students were being overlooked in the Open Science movement.

    We think that this could be fatal because students are the researchers of tomorrow.
    This is why SIOS ( Student Initiative for Open Science) was born. We wanted to involve students in the movement and to provide them with open education on Open Science. 

    We are Data Sharing. We are Open Access.
    We are Reproducibility.
    We are Open Science, from students for students.

    What are your activities?

    Our event team organises a broad range of activities. We host lectures on Open Science topics (e.g., the difference between exploratory vs confirmatory research, Bayesian statistics, pre-registered reports), workshops to provide students with practical tools (e.g., how to pre-register your thesis, version control with GitHub, power analysis, JASP), and more fun activities to get students together, such as Open Science movie nights, pub quizzes, or discussion panels. We also have a communication team at SIOS that is pretty active on social media, especially on Twitter, but also on Instagram and on Facebook. Here, we spread our events and resources with other students, scholars, universities and everyone else, who is interested. At the same time, we attend conferences and write grant applications. We also provide materials and resources to students on our website and our Slack Channel. Here, students can also ask questions and debate current issues. Besides the purely educational part, we are currently running a study on research practices among students.

    How did your environment (e.g. profs, lecturers …) react to it?

    We have received immense support from our study coordinators, profs and lecturers. Many of them have offered to give lectures themselves and help us share our endeavours. For us, it is extremely rewarding to see the resonance in the community but at the same time we also know that we are lucky that our university is very method-conscious and that it may be different at universities outside the Netherlands. More importantly, students find our events helpful, and we receive a lot of positive feedback from them. 

    Are any of your activities part of the university curriculum, so that students get credits for them? Would that even be a goal for you?

    Besides the course we talked about before (Good research practices), students can get credit points for visiting our lectures. That is at least a start and so our goals are more focused on spreading our message and helping to set up other SIOS’s at different universities. However, we just heard from a newly founded SIOS that they will definitely focus on integrating Open Science in their curriculum because they do not even have a course on good research practices there. We hope that someday every research student can have access to Open Science materials if he:she wish to. 

    How do you ensure that your efforts and projects are sustainable and long-lasting?

    An easy answer would be that we currently digitise all our projects (thanks, COVID!). That means, we record all our lectures and we provide our whole range of resources for free on our website and social media. We also created a step-by-step guide to create an own initiative for Open Science and we pitch this guide at other universities. At the same time, we really think about what students need. That is why, most of our lectures are very introductory.

    We think that this is a general problem in the Open Science movement – that everyone who does not know so much about it yet will have problems organising all the information and debates that are currently going on.

    That is why often PhD students and other-level researchers are visiting our lectures – we offer comprehensive bunches of information. 

    We also believe that it is best to start as early as possible to teach students Open Science practices. Take pre-registrations, for example: If you already do this for your very first research project, the bachelor thesis in most cases, it will become normal for students to follow these practices. In this way, you are teaching students and building awareness as early as possible to integrate Open Science practices in the long run. 

    How can academic libraries support initiatives like yours?

    We think that there is a lot that can be done. The most important step is to help us share our endeavours. That can be on social media and on your website. Libraries could also always ask us for collaboration and especially now it is easier to just organise workshops together online. Libraries can also ask their students to create their own SIOS. And more generally, they can provide all kinds of resources themselves and participate in our Slack Channel.

    Do you have any tips for other students who want to start such an initiative? (How) Can they get any support from you?

    We have actually created a step-by-step guide to create your own SIOS. These are just guidelines of course, not necessarily a rulebook. We think that creating a SIOS is not super easy but that you can get a lot of support if you ask for it. That can be asking us at SIOS Amsterdam (we will always find time for you to have a meeting with us and give you some recommendations) but also lecturers and other people from university. Also, creating such an initiative has many incentives. From learning a lot about Open Science and current debates, over networking, to doing something worthwhile next to your study – creating such an initiative is inherently very rewarding.

    We were talking to Franziska Nippold and Marla Dressel

    SIOS link list

    Links to the course “Good Research Practices”

    Further readings

    The post Open Science: Grassroots Initiative from Students for Students at the University of Amsterdam first appeared on ZBW MediaTalk.