Open Science Conference 2023: Old Hurdles and new Practical Successes for the Anniversary

by Birgit Fingerle and Guido Scherp

The tenth edition of the Open Science Conference 2023 took place on June 27-29, 2023 online. The 228 participants from 34 countries were offered a diverse program of 14 presentations, 21 practical solutions, eight workshops, and one panel.

As in previous years, the conference was opened by Professor Klaus Tochtermann, Director of the ZBW – Leibniz Information Center for Economics. He outlined the development of the conference since 2014, when it was established as Science 2.0 Conference. Its topics initially focused on the use of participatory tools, or rather on the influence of social media on research and the associated changes. Since 2017, Open Science has been the main focus, at first still strongly influenced by policy topics and a focus on research data, for example in the context of the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC). In addition to a broader range of topics, Open Science at the conference is increasingly viewed from a global perspective, for example topics such as inclusion and equity are being more and more addressed. The program nowadays is also strongly characterized by successful practical examples of Open Research, but current challenges are always considered as well. This blog post takes up some of the fascinating insights from the conference.

Good practices: Taking up Open Science strategically

Several contributions impressively demonstrated how Open Practices can be strategically anchored and implemented with very different objectives.

Ludwig Hülk, scientist and project leader at the Reiner Lemoine Institute, presented in his talk“Unite behind the (Open) Science – Open Science for a Global Energy System Transformation” how embedding Open Practices in the energy system research community has been successful. With energy-related CO2 emissions accounting for a large share of total emissions, decarbonizing energy systems is of particular relevance when addressing the climate crisis. And time is running out. Thus, efficiency and high re-usability of results were key triggers to consistently embed open practices. This has resulted in a collaborative Open Science ecosystem, with various platforms and tools for sharing open and FAIR data, for example. Some of the tools can also be used by the public.

In the presentation “Leading Change in Organizations: Towards an Open Knowledge Infrastructure for Nature” gab Jana Hoffmann, co-leader of the science program “Collection Future” at the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin (MfN), which is also a research museum, gave an insight into a transformation process underway there.

The goal is to develop the entire collection into an open knowledge infrastructure and to make it completely accessible in a new way, especially via digital methods. This serves research itself, but also brings research and the public closer together. With numerous examples, she showed how knowledge can be made accessible and new opportunities for public participation can be created in virtual space as well as on site – and how both worlds can be brought together. This made the collection a unique environment for trying out and reflecting on open practices.

Open Science against wasted research and further inefficiencies

The challenges facing researchers in ecology were the subject of the keynote talk “Meta-Science and Open Science for Ecology: The Revolution We Need” by Antica Culina, senior scientist at the Ruder Boskovic Institute. Her work on local and global challenges around climate change, which she hopes to solve with Open Science, is hampered not only by the extreme complexity of ecological systems, but also by the poor accessibility and re-usability of existing research. To this end, Antica Culina presented several case studies.

For example, she worked with other researchers to calculate “Wasted Research” in ecology. Result: Out of more than 10,000 studies, 45% were not even published. Of the published studies, in turn, a large proportion had serious quality deficiencies. This resulted in 82% wasted research in the best-case scenario and 89% in the worst-case scenario. She sees Open Science as a key enabler to improve these inefficiencies and solve the complex research challenges as quickly as possible.

There are a few examples of near-instantaneous data sharing in ecology. But in general, Open Science practices are still not widespread there. An analysis of Open Data found by the team in terms of its reusability was not very successful. In many cases, the data’s poor quality hindered its reusability. In another case, they found a lot of Open Data on a research question, but upon closer inspection were unable to conduct the planned study at the end of the day, again because of poor data quality.

Another area Antica Culina looked at was Open Code. Given the serious impact on research results that even small programming errors can have, she said it is surprising that code is not part of the peer review process, as it is in software development. Sharing code allows better understanding of analyses, evaluation of conclusions, and reuse of code, which can save a lot of work time. It also increases confidence in science because it boosts reproducibility. However, an analysis of data from 400 random papers from journals with code-sharing policies showed that 73% of the papers nevertheless had no code available. In conjunction with other problems, this led to only 21% of the paper being potentially computationally reproducible.

Motivation and commitment as drivers of Open Research

For the first time, this year’s conference featured so-called “highlight talks” on the latest research findings on Open Science.

Ronny Röwert, research associate at the Institute for Technical Education and University Didactics at the Technical University of Hamburg, presented his study “What Drives Open Science Pioneers? Evidence from Open Science Award Winners” conducted as part of his doctoral thesis in which he had asked 13 thirteen winners of Open Science Awards about their motivations for Open Research. The most frequently cited reasons were the subsequent use of one’s own research results (benefit for science), citation advantages (benefit for researchers), and public interest or the social relevance of the research (benefit for society). Despite existing differences between the disciplines, there could always be observed a balanced interplay between egoistic and altruistic motives. In his conclusion, Röwert emphasized the importance of motivation in the implementation of Open Science and that appropriate framework conditions must be in place for a strong commitment. Otherwise:

“Research culture eats open science strategy for breakfast”.

In the contribution “Results of Monitoring on Open Science and Research in Finland: Perspective of the UAS Sector” Anne Kärki, researcher at Satakunta University of Applied Sciences, presented the results of an Open Science monitoring for universities of applied sciences (UAS) in Finland.

The “Declaration for Open Science and Research 2020-2025”, (PDF) is a shared vision for the Finnish research community, and the 23 UAS are united by their strong commitment to it. Questionnaire-based monitoring (the data is open) was used to measure the degree of implementation of openness for the first time. This covered the areas of culture for Open Science, Open Access to scientific publications, Open Access to research data and methods, and Open Education and Open Access to educational resources. It showed that the majority of UAS are already doing very well, especially in terms of Open Access. Deficits were identified with regard to Open Science culture, among other things because concepts such as Citizen Science are not yet really tangible. The area of Open Education was found to be very heterogeneous in its degree of implementation; some UAS have not yet taken it up at all. Kärki emphasized that the first monitoring deliberately did not yet include everything and was not as rigorous.

Involvement of young scientists central to reform of research assessment

The currently very present topic of reforming research assessment, which is driven in particular by CoARA (Coalition for advancing research assessment), and the connection of CoARA with Open Science were discussed at the panel on “Reforming Research Assessment in the Spirit of Open Science” diskutiert.

Youtube: Panel Discussion with Lidia Borrell-Damian, Iain Hrynaszkiewicz, Claudia Labisch and Iris Lechner: Reforming Research Assessment in the Spirit of Open Science, zbw©

With Lidia Borrell-Damian (Science Europe) as a member of the CoARA Steering Board, Iain Hrynaszkiewicz (PLOS) as a representative of a publisher, Claudia Labisch (Leibniz Association) as a representative of a research organization, and Iris Lechner as a young scientist, different perspectives were represented.

After initial hesitation, around 600 organizations have now signed the CoARA agreement , including PLOS and the Leibniz Association. There were and are definitely concerns from the research community. Among other things, there were fears that the reform process launched by the European Commission was too strongly guided by science policy and would take control away from the scientific community. In the meantime, these concerns have been dispelled. In the panel, it was stated that research assessment must of course remain science-led and existing systems must be taken into account.

The course of the discussion showed that Open Science is seen as an integral part of CoARA, being one of the key drivers. Therefore, the involvement of Open Science advocates must be ensured everywhere, including in the working groups to be established. The panel gave a clear message to the Open Science community:

“Get involved! After all, CoARA and Open Science have a common goal, to improve research.”

However, the role of publishers in this process has yet to be determined. At the moment, it is more of an observational role. Ultimately, part of the reform process is to enforce the recognition of more diverse research outputs, such as data and code. This will have implications for future publication formats, their linkage to each other, and their peer review.

The most important aspect emphasized several times was the consideration of early career researchers. They are already represented in the CoARA Steering Board and this will also be ensured for all working groups. In the context of the reforms, there must also be a broad discussion of what a future researcher actually is and what achievements are recognized, for example, team leadership, science communication and public involvement. The panel also emphasized that this process would take time and that young researchers should not lose patience. It is all the more important, they said, to design the transitional phase of research assessment in such a way that early career researchers are always given guidance. In a statement, the following applies to the reform process:

“Generation of young researchers must be the winners.”

We cannot turn the wheel back

To sum up the conference, a statement from the panel can be taken up: “We cannot turn the wheel back”. Even though there is still a long way to go, Open Science is well on its way to becoming the modus operandi of science, and with each passing year, more and more foundations are being laid. In 2023, the Open Science Conference again provided good insights into what Open Science can look like in practice.

All talks and the panel were recorded and can be found on YouTube. The slides for the presentations are available on Zenodo.

You may also find this interesting:

About the Authors:
Birgit Fingerle holds a diploma in economics and business administration and works at ZBW, among others, in the fields innovation management, open innovation, open science and currently in particular with the “Open Economics Guide”. Birgit Fingerle can also be found on LinkedIn.
Portrait, photographer: Northerncards©

Dr Guido Scherp is Head of the “Open-Science-Transfer” department at the ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics. He can also be found on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Portrait: ZBW©, photographer: Sven Wied

The post Open Science Conference 2023: Old Hurdles and new Practical Successes for the Anniversary first appeared on ZBW MediaTalk.

European Open Science Cloud: small projects, big plans and 1 billion EUR

by Claudia Sittner

Prof. Dr Klaus Tochtermann is Director of the ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, Member of the German Council for Scientific Information Infrastructures (RfII) and board member of the recently established European Open Science Cloud Association (EOSC Association). He was a member of the EOSC’s High Level Expert Group and the EOSC working group for sustainability for many years. He also founded, in 2012, the Leibniz Research Alliance Open Science, the international Open Science Conference and the associated Barcamp Open Science.

Recently, he was interviewed by host Dr Doreen Siegfried (ZBW) in the ZBW podcast “The Future is Open Science” on the future of the European Open Science Cloud and the complexity of the landscape for research data. This blog post is a shortened version of the podcast episode “European Open Science Cloud – Internet of FAIR Data and Services” with Klaus Tochtermann. You can listen to the entire episode (35 minutes) here (German).

Why the name European Open Science Cloud never fitted

Something that will surprise many people: “The terminology of the EOSC was never appropriate – even in 2015”, according to Tochtermann. Back then – as the initial ideas for the EOSC were being developed and small projects were commencing – it was neither European, nor Open, nor Science nor a Cloud:

“It isn’t European – because research doesn’t stop at the regional borders of Europe, but instead many research groups are internationally networked. It isn’t open – because even in science there is data that requires protection such as patient data. It isn’t science – because many scientific research projects also use data from economy. And it isn’t cloud – because the point is not to deposit all data centrally in a cloud solution”, explains Klaus Tochtermann. The term was specified by the European Commission at the time and is now established. Among experts, the term “Internet of FAIR Data and Services” (IFDS) is preferred, says Tochtermann.

Preparatory phase 2015 to 2020

The EOSC started in 2015 with the aim “to provide European researchers, innovators, companies and citizens with a federated and open multi-disciplinary environment where they can publish, find and re-use data, tools and services for research, innovation and educational purposes.” (European Commission).

Since then, 320 million EUR have been deployed to fund 50 projects relating to research data management. These have however only shed light on individual aspects of the EOSC. “In fact, we are still a long way from being able to offer EOSC operationally in the scientific system”, says Tochtermann.

The funds were integrated into a research framework programme that only financed smaller projects at a time – this is owing to the way the European Commission functions and how it funds research. That’s why there was never one big EOSC project, but many small individual projects. These examined issues such as: “What would a search engine for research data look like? How can identifiers for research data be managed?”, explains the ZBW director.

Large projects EOSC Secretariat and EOSC Future

Then the EOSC went into the next phase with two large projects: EOSC Secretariat and EOSC Future. Running time: 30 months. Budget: 41 million EUR. Both are intended to bring together all previous projects in the direction of EOSC, i.e. to enable convergence and actually draw up a “System EOSC”. All puzzle parts from earlier small projects are now being put together to form a large EOSC blueprint.

Founding of the EOSC Association

The EOSC Association was founded in 2020. It is a formal institution and a foundation under Belgian law. It is headquartered in Brussels and will consolidate all activities. A board of directors has been appointed to coordinate the activities, made up of the president Karl Luyben and a further eight members, including Klaus Tochtermann.

In February 2021, the Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA, PDF) laid down what the EOSC Association should achieve over the next few years. From now on, all EOSC projects must be orientated on these SRIA guidelines.

Initial time plan for the European Open Science Cloud

The Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda anticipates various development stages with precisely defined timetables. Basis functionalities are classified as “EOSC Core”, a level that should be implemented by 2023. Here, elements such as search, storage/save or a log-in function will be realised. This will be followed by the launch of “EOSC Exchange”, which deals with more complex functionalities and services for special data analyses of research datasets.

Collaboration between the EOSC Association and the European Commission

On the question of how the European Open Science Cloud Association and the European Commission cooperate with each other, Tochtermann emphasises the good relationship to the Commission. The so called partnership model, which is new for everyone and first needs to be experienced, forms the framework for this. However, sometimes the time windows in which the Commission wants reactions from the EOSC Association are very narrow. “I’m glad we have a very strong president of the EOSC Association, who also has the backbone to ensure that we are not always confronted with such short time windows, where reactions are sometimes simply not possible because the subject matter is too complex. But overall it works well”, Tochtermann sums up.

Financing the EOSC Association: 1 billion EUR

For the next ten years, 1 billion EUR is being made available for the development of the EOSC – half from the European Commission and half by the 27 member states of the EU. This was negotiated between the European Commission and the EOSC Association from December 2020 to July 2021 and laid down in an agreement (PDF, the Memorandum of Understanding for the Co-progammed Euroepean Partnership on the European Open Science Cloud.

The EOSC Association also raises further funds through membership fees. According to Klaus Tochtermann: “Members are not individuals, but organisations such as the ZBW or the NFDI Association in Germany. (…) Members can choose between full membership, meaning they can take part in all votes and currently pay a contribution of 10,000 EUR per year. Or they can be an observer, where (…) they have a less active role and are not allowed to vote in the annual general meeting. As an observer, you pay 2,000 EUR.” The contributions of the 200 members currently generate a budget of around 1.5 million EUR for the EOSC Association. This is being utilised to build up staff in the office, among other things.

EOSC, NFDI and Gaia-X: a confusing mishmash?

As well as the EOSC, there are further projects in Germany and Europe aimed at implementing large research data infrastructures. The most well-known from a German perspective are the National Research Data Infrastructure (NFDI) and Gaia-X. All three projects – EOSC, NFDI and Gaia-X are technically linked. They are all technical infrastructures. But how do they differ?

  • National Research Data Infrastructure

    As well as the European EOSC, there is the NFDI (German) in Germany, which was founded by the German Council for Scientific Information Infrastructures (RfII).

    The NFDI – similarly to the EOSC – deals with the technical infrastructure for research data, but is also concerned with the networking people, i.e. the scientific community, says Tochtermann. The NFDI thereby focusses on individual disciplines such as economics, social sciences, material sciences or chemistry.

    The NFDI directorate, a central coordinating body, brings the individual NFDI initiatives together, so that they interact. This takes places through working groups and applies above all to cross-discipline or discipline-independent topics. Klaus Tochtermann gives the following examples:

    • digital long-term archiving of research data,
    • allocation of unique identifiers for a data set,
    • single login or single sign-in for the research data infrastructure NFDI,
    • interoperability of systems,
    • uniform metadata standards and
    • uniform protocols.
  • Gaia-X

    On the other hand, there is Gaia-X: “Gaia-X is an initiative which aims to offer companies in Germany and Europe a European infrastructure for the management, i.e. storage of their data, for example, because many of them opt for services from America or China”, explains Tochtermann. As well as in its target group (including industry, companies), Gaia-X also differs from the EOSC and the NFDI in relation to the major role that the topic of data sovereignty plays in the project. Klaus Tochtermann summarises this as follows: “Data sovereignty means that when I generate data, I can follow who is using my data for what purposes at any time. And if I don’t want this, then I can also say, ’I don’t want my data to go there.’”

How can you learn more about the EOSC?

The EOSC Portal is an information platform that gives details about the services that will be playing a role at the EOSC at a later date. These include services such as European research data repositories. It’s a good place to start if you want to find out more about the EOSC.

Take part in the development of the EOSC

Anyone who wants to get involved in the EOSC can do so in the Advisory Groups. Six of these have been set up initially, to explore topics such as curricula in the field of research data, FAIR data and metadata standards. There was an open call to participate in these groups, for which around 500 applications were received. Most of them came from France (18 percent) and Germany (17 percent) which shows how much the EOSC has already caught on in both countries, says Tochtermann. A selection from these 500 applications will now be used to fill the six working groups.

On the website of the EOSC Association, you will also find regular “Calls and Grants”, which people can apply for, or job applications For up-to-date information, you can subscribe to the monthly newsletter or follow the EOSC Association on Twitter @eoscassociation.

This blogpost is a translation from German.

Related Links

This might also interest you:

  • Episode 12 of the ZBW podcast „The Future is Open Science“ with Prof. Dr Klaus Tochtermann on the European Open Science Cloud (German)
  • The post European Open Science Cloud: small projects, big plans and 1 billion EUR first appeared on ZBW MediaTalk.

    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.
  • The post Open Science: How to Implement It in a Multidisciplinary Faculty – 7 Recommendations first appeared on ZBW MediaTalk.