Tracking Science: How Libraries can Protect Data and Scientific Freedom

An interview with Julia Reda

Data tracking has long been a lucrative business model for many corporations. The fact that it also takes place in science is not so well-known, however. But here too, dangers are lurking for data protection and the freedom of science and research. And libraries also have a role to play, as stakeholders in the scientific ecosystem, particularly if they take out any kind of contract with profit-oriented companies such as publishing houses, in which the data from researchers can also function as bargaining chips.

Julia Reda from the Society for Civil Rights (GFF) has long been dedicated to the assertion of fundamental rights in the conflict area surrounding copyright and data protection. In the interview she explains the role libraries and digital infrastructures play in this complex topic and why it is so important for these institutions to build their own infrastructure and focus on green Open Access instead of financially supporting publishing houses to build up a parallel and commercial infrastructure.

During the recent online conference #vBib21, you gave a presentation on “Tracking Science: Consequences for Data Protection and Scientific Freedom” (German). Why is this topic also relevant to libraries?

Libraries do far more than just making literature available. Ideally they provide a comprehensive knowledge structure in which people can learn and do research. The exploding costs of licences for specialist scientific articles is not only making it more difficult for libraries to fulfil this task: scientific publishers use the enormous profits they procure in this way, at the expense of the public purse, to buy up more and more software companies responsible for organising the science industry, from logging measurement results in the laboratory to assessing the quality of research. In this way the science corporations create a commercial parallel structure to the services that libraries should actually provide but are often unable to, due to a lack of financial resources. Once public research takes place on commercial platforms, it is easy for these companies to collect highly sensitive data about the researchers. This represents a danger to their privacy and to the independence of science. Libraries must take a stand against this trend, because it is their very own duties that are being privatised here.

How is scientific freedom threatened when major publishing houses track the surfing and search habits of individual scientists?

Individual researchers could be hindered in carrying out their research: For example, the Chinese government has already induced certain scientific publishers to block access to specialist articles in China for users whose topics are a thorn in the side of the regime. China has also imposed sanctions on individual scientists and research institutes who are working in these research fields. If science companies sell personal data to governments – about who is reading and downloading which specialist articles – further researchers can become the target for sanctions. The resulting “scissors in the head” (self-censoring) that begins before the actual restrictions of scientific freedom even occur, is particularly dangerous. Researchers start to avoid controversial topics because they feel that they are being watched, and they want to avoid trouble.

A further danger is that the use of data to make decisions will increase existing unfairness in science. It’s already well-known that the so-called “impact factor”, which should provide information about the quality of specialist journals, is completely unsuited to this task. Nevertheless it continues to be called upon for career promotion decisions. Measuring the quality of scientific papers according to the number of times they have been accessed can also give a distorted picture. Male, white scientists who are English native speakers and who are particularly present in the media have an unfair advantage in such procedures.

The topic is however very abstract. Do you have a concrete example for us in which tracking had negative consequences for scientific freedom or an individual scientist?

One well-known example is that of the activist and researcher Aaron Swartz, who was accused of computer sabotage by the US government after he had automatically downloaded thousands of specialist articles from the commercial repository JSTOR via his completely legal university access in the year 2010. JSTOR became aware of Swartz’s “suspicious” surfing behaviour and blocked his access. Although JSTOR reached an out of court agreement with Swartz, the US public prosecutor’s office pressed charges against him and pursued him as if he were a criminal. He had done nothing worse than borrowing too many books from the library. Swartz committed suicide in the year 2013; it was only after this that the case against him was dropped. In the meantime the EU copyright reform of 2019 has made it clear that scientific publishers in the EU are not allowed to prevent the mass download of specialist articles for the purposes of text and data mining as long as these activities do not compromise the safety and integrity of the computer systems.

In the scientific ecosystem, libraries often advocate Open Science, for example by operating their own Open Access repositories or by negotiating Open Access-friendly contracts with publishers. What pitfalls are lurking here in relation to tracking and scientific freedom?

It is important that libraries rely on green Open Access, i.e. provide their own infrastructure for the publication of specialist articles. Contracts with science companies are not only associated with high publication costs for Open Access publications, the so-called Article Processing Charges (APCs), which financially burden the public purse. The danger of these contracts is also that libraries will give away the control of the publication infrastructure. Commercial companies then host the specialist articles and can track the surfing habits of people who call up these articles. Universities and libraries should preferably completely avoid these contracts and invest the money in their own infrastructure.

Four aspects that are important for contracts with external service providers - as listet in the next paragraph

Four aspects that are important for contracts with external service providers.

If contracts are signed with external service providers, however, these four aspects are particularly important:

  • The contracts must be tendered, so that different companies can compete with their respective quotations.
  • The contracts must avoid “lock-in effects” that lead the libraries to become permanently dependent on a specific provider. To ensure this, it is important that the software of the online platform used is Open Source, so that it is possible to change provider without the researcher needing to get used to a completely new platform.
  • The specialist articles must also be subject to genuinely free licences that allow unlimited further use on any other platform and for any purpose; this ensures that it is still legally possible to move from one provider to another, or to infrastructure that you operate yourself.
  • Finally libraries must insist that tracking of the surfing habits of individual researchers is contractually forbidden and that the software runs on in-house university servers. Only in this way can the university or the library comply with its public mandate to protect the fundamental rights of the researchers. Just a few days ago, a university was prohibited by the courts from forwarding personal data to the USA via a commercial provider, because this violates EU data protection laws (see Administrative Court Wiesbaden: The cookie tool “Cookiebot” is a breach of the GDPR and is therefore forbidden [German]).

In your presentation you called upon libraries to get involved in the debate and campaign for data protection. What can libraries and digital infrastructure institutions do in practice?

As well as specific suggestions on what they need to bear in mind when negotiating contracts, it is important that the library associations and managements of higher education institutions publicly declare their solidarity with the researchers whose fundamental rights are threatened by science tracking. This involves turning down pseudo-scientific quantitative metrics for the evaluation of research quality, as companies such as RELX are increasingly offering. It is also a good idea to disseminate campaigns such as the petition „Stop Tracking Science“ or the statement from the German Psychological Society about science tracking (German), which addresses not only individual researchers but also scientific institutions with sensible suggestions.

Are there further issues in which libraries should get involved or become more aware of, in order to protect scientific freedom?

Libraries are often keen to stand up for the basic rights of researchers and to use legal regulations to improve access to knowledge for the general public. For example, the new EU copyright reform has created new ways for libraries to make out-of-print works freely accessible on the internet. It is important they make use of these new freedoms as soon as possible, even if they do not have any practical experience of them. At the Society for Civil Rights (GFF), I am working towards the legal assertion of fundamental rights in the conflict issue of copyright. I would be delighted to hear from libraries who would like to take advantage of these new opportunities and who are looking for support.

This text has been translated from German.

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About Julia Reda

Julia Reda is an expert on copyright and freedom of communication and heads the project control© Copyright law and freedom of communication of the Society for Civil Rights, which is dedicated to the enforcement of fundamental rights in the area of conflict with copyright. From 2014 to 2019, Julia Reda was a Member of the European Parliament, where she focused on net policy issues, in particular the EU copyright reform and the regulation of online platforms. Julia is a Fellow of the Shuttleworth Foundation and Affiliate of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

Portrait, photographer: Diana Levine, [CC-by 4.0]

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Open Science as a “Wicked Problem”: How Libraries can Accelerate the Transformation

by Birgit Fingerle

In mid-November innOsci – the forum for open innovation culture in the German Stifterverband – published the workbook “The Opening of Science / Workbook on Designing the Transformation (PDF, German).

Opening of science as a “wicked problem”

The opening of science is described in the workbook as a “wicked problem”: a very complex problematic situation, characterised by the fact that it surpasses the ability of a single organisation to understand it and react to it, and that disagreement often exists about the causes of the problem and the best way to solve it. Ultimately no higher education institution alone can achieve a systematic transformation to Open Science. Collaboration across organisation and industry boundaries is essential to achieve the objective. The concept of the wicked problem offers important starting points for better understanding of the challenges and the development of solution options. In order to solve wicked problems, it is important for people to change their behaviour, particularly as open approaches question habitual working practices and cultures.

Supporting innovators in the science system

A series of people from the science system were interviewed for the workbook. Four personas with their respectively perceived hurdles and obstacles relating to Open Science were derived from these perspectives, for example that of an Open Science officer.

The workbook lists a variety of small and large steps that can be taken to promote Open Science at all levels. The steps that support researchers who want to practice Open Science as innovators in the science system include:

  1. The creation of incentive structures for open practices, particularly funding possibilities and support services;
  2. Obligation to publish research data and methods;
  3. Take into account open practice expertise and the societal impact of the research during appointment procedures;
  4. Open Science further training and qualification offers.

Create incentive and support structures for open practices

Libraries in particular can contribute to creating incentive and support structures for open practices by establishing support services or by referencing the support possibilities offered by other organisations. These include the Open Access officers already established at many libraries or the establishment of help desks as well as online information services and discussion forums.

Even if they do not offer any relevant services themselves, libraries can at least point to the services of others. Examples of relevant online information services are the open-access.network, forschungsdaten.info or the Open Economics Guide of the ZBW (German; English language version will be published in 2022). Support centres for Open Science (Germam) and Open Access (German) are listed in the Open Economics Guide.

Open Science further training and qualification programmes

Similarly, libraries can, on the one hand, offer training opportunities for Open Science and, on the other, can point to training possibilities offered by third parties. There are many different training formats possible. They range from on-site seminars and MOOCs via “challenges”, such as the Open Education Challenge Series, and email courses to the Open Science Coffee Lectures (link in German language) offered by the Bonn University and State Library and the Bonn University Computer Center for example.

Many training opportunities for Open Science, Open Access and Open Data are listed in the Open Economics Guide (links in German language).

Start with yourself: promote a collaborative working culture

A series of measures in the workbook serve to “open spaces and promote discussion”. It is a good idea to start with yourself if you want to convince others of the advantages of something, and this also applies to open working practices. Libraries should therefore also practice a collaborative working culture themselves, if they want to convince researchers of its advantages. The ever present “bubble-thinking” that many employees in science and administration have always wanted to get away from, that hinders the flow of information, creativity and innovation, would thereby be removed, enabling many employees to enjoy a collaborative working culture. Relevant measures often begin small, such as chance meetings in the kitchenette, at the sofa corner and an easier desk rotation. Collaborative software and Working Out Loud Circles can also promote exchange and collaboration, as can innovative event formats such as open space conferences, barcamps, hackathons and lunch talks or the use of creativity- and innovation-promoting working methods including design thinking, business model canvas or crowdsourcing.

This text has been translated from German.

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About the author:

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”.

Portrait, photographer: Northerncards©

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First Open Science Retreat: On the Future of Research Evaluation

by Anna Maria Höfler, Isabella Peters, Guido Scherp, Doreen Siegfried and Klaus Tochtermann

Open Science is known to cover a broad range of topics. The implementation of open practices is quite complex and requires involving various stakeholders, including research performing organisations, libraries and research infrastructures, publishers and service providers, and policy makers. Among other things, regular exchange and networking within and between these groups are necessary to accompany and support efforts towards more openness – ultimately, transforming them into a joint and global movement.

That is why the ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics has now launched the international “Open Science Retreat” as a new online exchange and networking format to discuss current and global challenges in the implementation of Open Science and the shared vision of an Open Science ecosystem. The format aims especially at the stakeholder groups mentioned above.

Within two compact sessions over two consecutive days, around 30 international experts from the different stakeholder groups are given the opportunity to dive deeper into a specific topic, to share their own expertise and experience, and to record their thoughts on this. The first Open Science Retreat took place at the end of October 2021 and focused on the “Research Evaluation – Promoting the Open Science movement”.

Four provocations on the evaluation of Open Science

To start off the discussion, Isabella Peters (ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics) reflected in an impulse talk on the extent to which open practices are currently recognised in research evaluation. Therefore, she formulated four provocations:

Four Provocations for the evaluation of Open Science.

  1. We drown in Open Science metrics and indicators – but we do not understand what they mean There are a plethora of approaches and recommendations on how to evaluate Open Science and which indicators might be suitable for assessing Open Science practices, for evaluating Open Science careers, for monitoring the progress towards the great amount of research products that are openly available. There are even automatic Open Science assessment tools on the market already. There is a well-equipped suite of Open Science indicators and metrics, which can be used to provide quantitative summaries about the research landscape and Open Science. However, there is a clear lack of contextualisation of these metrics and a lack of understanding of what the indicators indicate, and what they really mean for the research community.
  2. We drown in guidelines on how to use Open Science metrics and indicators – but we do not know what to use them for. There is a huge flower bouquet of guidelines and recommendations on how to bring Open Science indicators into practice. All of them discuss under which circumstances metrics and indicators are useful tools and when they are able to provide reasonable insights. And all of them list the circumstances under which indicators are not the right tools, for example, when they are not used responsibly. The key of responsible use is the alignment of the goals and the context of the evaluation with the suitable indicators. In terms of Open Science or in terms of promoting Open Science often neither the goals nor the alignment strategy is clear.
  3. We can stop promoting Open Science as soon as 100% of the research output is open – if we believe there is not more to achieve. If we understand Open Science as research outputs made openly available, with the right incentives, e.g. funding, the Open Science journey may end sooner than thought. However, often more and other features are associated with openness, e.g. the reproducibility or the credibility of science which is believed to be increased through Open Science practices. These goals of Open Science are not yet addressed by most of the proposed Open Science indicators. There is a lack of a community-driven discussion of what goals should actually be achieved with Open Science.
  4. Do it all or die tryin‘: Open Science overwhelms researchers. Sometimes it seems that there is only all or nothing in Open Science – at least only ALL is rewarded – the others have to justify themselves. Who is a good open scientist anyway – who is an Open Science champion? Is it only this researcher that reaches 100% or high scores in all Open Science indicators that have been proposed? Propagating the all-or-nothing-principle might be counterproductive. Researchers do not start doing Open Science because doing everything and targeting 100% everywhere in every indicator is neither practical nor possible for them.

Open Science and research evaluation: what have we (not) learned?

Taking up this impulse, the participants were divided into two breakout groups on the first day to reflect on the last ten years of Open Science and to discuss the question: What do we already know about Open Science and research evaluation and what do we not know?

One result of the discussion was that even if the attention on Open Science has been achieved and its general values with respect to research integrity and good science practice are largely accepted, the term and its implementation seem still unclear (with the risk of ‘open washing’) for many. A coherent definition and understanding of what Open Science is still lacking. And what are the goals and expectations, and consequently what shall be measured, why and for whom (cui bono?)? This is associated with the general question: What is quality of research and what is good quality of research? Consequently, the required change of research culture takes longer than necessary. And it seems useful to talk more to people who don’t see the point in Open Science practices. Their reasons against Open Science could provide more insights to remove the last barriers.

The participants further discussed the role of metrics. Open Science and subsequently metrics need a subject- and discipline-specific consensus. A common set of metrics for all scientific disciplines has not proven to be realistic. Metrics that fit certain disciplines and needs can be a good, and maybe in the beginning small, starting point to advance open practices. A lesson learned from (citation-based) bibliometrics (in which we are somehow trapped) is that applying metrics rather at the institutional and group level instead on the level of individual researchers is seen as a successful way to promote open practices and culture change. This also provides a better way to measure Open Science assets such as collaboration. And besides measuring the research outcome or outputs, also procedural criteria (methodology) and further forms of contributions (including negative results) should be evaluated, of course. In the end, however, there is still a lack of indicators to assess the quality of research – a challenge that traditional ‘closed science’ metrics also face.

Finally, another outcome of the discussion is that financing Open Science, especially in the transition phase, is still unclear. A model for its sustainable funding and its integration into regular research funding is still an open issue. In this regard, this is also an issue of equity in accessibility to Open Science as a public common good, as addressed in the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science.

Vision: How could an Open Science world look like in ten years?

On the second day of the Open Science Retreat, participants were again divided into two breakout groups. They were asked to develop a vision of how an Open Science ecosystem would look like in ten years, when research evaluation has been successful in promoting open practices. The discussions revolved around the following topics, all of which have to be accompanied by a change in attitude.

Types of publications: There will be a tendency towards “micro-publications” (i. e. information is shared when it is available) and machine-based approaches for evaluating these micro-publications should be applied. However, differentiation might be necessary for the various scientific disciplines.

Attributions to authors vs. institutions: Publications should be assigned to institutions rather than individuals and corresponding mechanisms are needed to clearly attribute/credit the individual contributions. “Negative” results should of course be published as a contribution to science. Furthermore, the role of reviewers should be attributed as contributors to the improvement of scientific work.

Shifts in roles of stakeholders: New ways of publishing processes to increase transparency and a separate review process should be applied. And the question should be solved: do we want funders to be involved in the evaluation and review process (independent of reputation)? There is a danger of assigning too much power to one stakeholder (e. g. funders). Thus, a future Open Science ecosystem has to be in control of the “checks and balances”.

Policies regarding research evaluation: They should be open and FAIR based on the question: who is supposed to share what in which time frame? Therefore, tools need to be in place to evaluate whether these policies meet FAIR and transparency criteria (e.g. currently there is no document version control, no DOI for call for tenders, etc.).

Finally, each participant was asked to formulate an own vision of a future Open Science world as concisely as possible in the form and length of a ‘tweet’. A voting derived the following top aspects for this vision:

  • In ten years sharing data and software has become an essential component of good scientific practice. Responsible data management to ensure data quality is part of students’ curriculum from the very beginning.
  • An efficient research data management infrastructure of tools and support is available for everybody. Adequate funding is provided to cover efforts for Open Science.
  • Data and software publications have become “full citizens” of the publication world, contributing to researchers’ reputation.
  • Reproducibility of research results is achieved.
  • Publishing negative results will be the normal, researchers will not be blamed for them.
  • People and open infrastructure are funded, not projects. They are evaluated based on the past performance.
  • As research is open, it is fully evaluated by external entities thereby removing internal politics.
  • The term “Open Science” is a thing of the past, since research in science and other fields has opened up such that the open/closed distinction is only necessary when there are good reasons for not sharing, but then at least these reasons are shared in an open and FAIR way.

Save the date for upcoming Open Science Retreats

The discussions were of course much more extensive and complex than can be presented here. And the participants themselves documented a great amount. All tweets and more can be read in anonymised form in the corresponding collaborative pad.

You are an Open Science advocate and would like to exchange your experiences and ideas with a group of 30 like-minded international Open Science enthusiasts from completely different domains? The dates for the next two retreats, both events will of course take place online, and their topics are already set.

  • 15/16 February 2022: Sustainable and reliable Open Science Infrastructures and Tools
  • 14/15 June 2022: Economic actors in the context of Open Science – The role of the private sector in the field of Open Science

This might also interest you:

  • Website Open Science Retreat
  • Hashtag: #openscienceretreat
  • Reflections on the evaluation of Open Science
  • Open Science Retreat on Research Evaluation – anonymised collaborative notes condensed into one document
  • Open Science Podcasts: 7 + 3 Tips for Your Ears
  • Publishing Behaviour in Economics: Coronavirus Pandemic Turns out to Be a Temporary Shock
  • One Year of Open Access: The journals Wirtschaftsdienst and Intereconomics Take Stock
  • Open Science: How to Implement it in a Multidisciplinary Faculty – 7 Recommendations
  • Open Economics Guide: New Open Science Support for Economics Researchers
  • Barcamp Open Science 2021: Opening up new perspectives
  • Open Science Conference 2021: On the Way to the “New Normal”
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  • About the authors:
    Dr Anna Maria Höfler is coordinator for science policy activities. Her key activities are Research Data and Open Science.
    Portrait, photographer: Rupert Pessl©

    Prof. Dr Isabella Peters is Professor of Web Science. Her key activities are Social Media and Web 2.0 (in particular user-generated content), Science 2.0, Scholarly communication on the Social Web, Altmetrics, DFG project “*metrics”, Knowledge representation, Information Retrieval.
    Portrait: ZBW©

    Dr Guido Scherp is Head of the “Open-Science-Transfer” department at the ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics and Coordinator of the Leibniz Research Alliance Open Science.
    Portrait: ZBW©, photographer: Sven Wied

    Dr Doreen Siegfried is Head of Marketing and Public Relations.
    Portrait: ZBW©

    Professor Dr Klaus Tochtermann is Director of the ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics. For many years he has been committed to Open Science on a national and international level. He is a Member of the Board of Directors of the EOSC Association (European Open Science Cloud).
    Portrait: ZBW©, photographer Sven Wied

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    Publishing Behaviour in Economics: Coronavirus Pandemic Turns out to Be a Temporary Shock

    by Olaf Siegert

    COVID-19 has not only had an important influence on daily life, but also on our professional work as researchers and service providers. Trends towards increasing digitisation of the entire research process, in particular through remote conferences and meetings, have changed the dynamics of how research teams interact. Changes in publishing models were also driven by the unique shock of the pandemic to the scientific system. But are there differences regarding changes in publication behaviour in different research disciplines, e.g. in Economics and Business Studies?

    Based on these questions the ZBW organised a virtual workshop to highlight recent studies that address and inves-tigate these changes in publication behaviour in response to COVID-19. So, in September 2021 more than 50 participants came together to engage in a productive exchange of ideas.

    The seven presentations of the workshop were grouped in two thematic sessions followed by an open discussion with all attendees. The first session focused on general trends in the publishing behaviour of researchers in Economics and Business Studies. The second session was mainly con-cerned with gender disparities in publication behaviour, i.e. the differences in the productivity of women and men during the corona crisis and how these relate to differences in pressures experi-enced by women and men (e.g. childcare during lockdown). The effects of COVID-19 on the role of Social Media and Peer Review in scholarly publishing and its overall impact on the academic reputa-tion system were discussed with all workshop participants at the end of the meeting.

    General trends in publishing behaviour during the corona crisis

    The first session started with a presentation by Klaus Wohlrabe (ifo Institute Munich) on „The in-fluence of Covid19 on the publication behaviour in economics – Bibliometric evidence from five working paper series (PDF). In his paper Wohlrabe analyses, how the pandemic influenced the publication behav-iour in the area of Economics. He considered articles published in five working paper series (NBER, CEPR, IZA, CESifo and MPRA) to answer questions like: „In what areas of economics were COVID-19-related studies published?“ or „Do COVID-19 papers have been downloaded more often com-pared to other economics papers?“.

    The second presenter was Nicholas Fraser (ZBW) with a presentation of his paper „Publishing of working papers during the COVID-19 pandemic: a survey of economics researchers“. He compared repositories from different disciplines (e.g. SSRN, RePEc, BioRxiv and medRxiv) to analyse the changes in publication behaviour, e.g. regarding publication output.

    After that Emilia Di Lorenzo (University of Naples Federico II, Italy), Gabriella Piscopo (University of Naples Federico II, Italy) and Marilena Sibillo (University of Salerno, Italy) talked about their paper „Economics and Business Studies during the pandemic and beyond: new research trends“ (PDF). They focused on the developments of research in the field of insurance sciences, based on a bibliometric analysis of the Web of Science database.

    The last presenter in the first session, Kristin Biesenbender (ZBW) showcased first results from her PhD study „Publication behaviour of German economists in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic“ based on EconBiz data. The possible effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on publication formats, internationalisation, co-authorship and Open Access were presented. The focus was on whether it makes a difference whether a researcher is at the beginning of her : his scientific career or already established.

    Gender disparities in publication behaviour during the pandemic

    The first presentation in the second half of the workshop came from four researchers from the University of Cambridge, namely Noriko Amano-Patiño, Elisa Faraglia, Chryssi Giannitsarou and Zeina Hasna on “The Unequal Effects of Covid-19 on Economists’ Research Productivity”. They used data mainly from the NBER and CEPR working paper series to explore the patterns of working paper publica-tions. Among other things, they found that gender differences are particularly stark at the mid-career level.

    The second presenter was Tatyana Deryugina (University of Illinois, USA) on “Gender Disparities and Covid-19”. She discovered in her survey of academics across various disciplines that female and male academics experienced a substantial increase in time spent on childcare and housework and that the increase was even larger for women. This also led to a reduction of time available for research when compared to men and to women without children.

    Illustration from the Workshop “The Impact of Covid-19”, Detail, Helge Windisch

    Simone Chinetti from the University of Salerno (Italy) showcased his recent paper „Academic productivity and pandemic – evidence from female economists during the COVID-19 crisis“. He investigated how the current pandemic affects the productivity of female economists, including the sudden increase in domestic work and childcare to be done by women due to school closures and social distanc-ing measures. His data sample came from SSRN papers published between January and November 2020. He found a decline regarding the number of uploaded papers from female economists com-pared to their male counterparts.

    Discussion on the change of publishing behaviour in times of a pandemic

    The third session of the workshop was an open discussion among participants chaired by Isabella Peters (ZBW). They discussed the following topics:

    • Are research results being shared more intensively via Social Media (e.g. Twitter) or via other online media (e.g. in blogs, news articles)?
    • What is the mode and role of Peer Review when publishing in a pandemic? Are there expe-riences with other formats of Peer Review (e.g. Rapid Reviews, Open Peer Reviews, Open Review Reports)?
    • How has the pandemic affected the scientific reputation system in Economics and Business Studies? What are positions and approaches from learned societies, universities or re-search funders?

    To sum up, the workshop resulted in the following four core conclusions:

    1. COVID-19 has meanwhile led to a sharp increase in publication activity, which can be seen above all in the number of preprints published (mostly called “working papers” in Econom-ics). However, this was apparently a temporary effect, which was especially noticeable in spring / summer 2020 and has now subsided.
    2. The pandemic itself was a very strong topic in preprints in economics – around 15% of all publications that have been published since the beginning of the corona crisis also deal with it. Here, too, the effect was stronger in 2020 and is now slowly decreasing again. COVID-19-related papers were also used more, i.e. downloaded and cited.
    3. In relation to gender, a stronger publication activity was temporarily observed among men when compared to women. The slump among women was particularly evident in mothers of young children, who were particularly affected by lockdown and home schooling. Here, too, the effect now seems to be decreasing.
    4. With regard to the reputation system in Economics, COVID-19 does not seem to have any major effects. Above all, the pandemic has positively influenced the publication behaviour in the area of preprints – the importance of journal rankings and the submission behaviour in journals have changed little or not at all.

    The detailed workshop programme including abstracts is available here.

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    Author: Olaf Siegert
    Olaf Siegert is head of the Publication Services department and Open Access Representative of the ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics. He is involved with open access as part of his work at the ZBW and is also active for the Leibniz Association, where he represents the Leibniz Open Access working group in external committees. He is involved in the Alliance of Science Organisations in the working group Scientific Publication System and at Science Europe for the Leibniz Association.

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    Science Checker: Open Access and Artificial Intelligence Help Verify Claims

    An Interview with Sylvain Massip

    What is the Science Checker?

    In July 2021, the Science Checker went online in a beta version. In this version, it only deals with health topics. As a first step, it is intended to help science journalists and other scientific fact checkers to test the likelihood of a claim. 3 million Open Access articles from PubMed (out of 36 million) serve as the data basis for the Open Source tool. It uses artificial intelligence to check whether a claim is supported, discussed or rejected by the scientific literature. As a result, it shows how many and which documents it has found on the topic, when they were published and to what extent they make the claim probable. The guiding question is always: “What does the research literature say about this? In the practical operation of the Science Checker, three fields must first be filled in: agent, effect (increase, cause, prevent, cure) and disease.

    To make the Science Checker more imaginable, here are a few examples: “Does caffeine lead to more intelligence?” (unfortunately unlikely). For this question, the tool finds three sources in the database.

    There are 5933 sources on the question whether smoking causes cancer. Of these, 80% are confirmatory and 20% negative. For the question “Does sport prevent heart attacks?” the Science Checker finds 420 sources, of which only the first 20 relevant ones are included in the first probability calculation. Click on “Add” to add the next 20 articles or on “All” to calculate the total. Since the latter takes some time, a notification is sent out by e-mail as soon as the result is available.

    We have already introduced the idea behind the Science Checker in the article “Opscidia: Fighting Fake News via Open Access”. To get a practical impression of the tool’s possibilities, we recommend simply trying it out yourself: to the Science Checker.

    In this interview, we talk to Sylvain Massip, one of five members of the Science Checker team, about his experiences during the first five months that the tool has been online in a beta version. He explains who the Science Checker is aimed at, how it is financed and what contribution libraries can make.

    What happened since you introduced your idea to use Open Access (OA) to fight fake news a year ago here at ZBW MediaTalk?

    We have now developed a beta version of the Science Checker, which is available and usable by everyone online. It is a tool for journalists and fact-checkers which works with an Artificial Intelligence (AI) pipeline that retrieves the articles of interest for the request of the user, and classifies them as supporting and contradicting the original claim entered by the user, or neutral in some cases. The data used for the Science Checker comes from a dump of Open Access articles from Europe PMC.

    For whom did you create the Science Checker?

    Our first targeted audience are the scientific journalists and scientific fact-checkers.
    But the Science Checker carries the will of Opscidia to make scientific literature more and more accessible beyond academic circles only. That’s why we aim for a larger use of it, open to all curious people.

    The Science Checker has been launched in July 2021. So, it is online for about five months now. What are your first experiences and feedback? What were your biggest challenges?

    Since the release of the Science Checker, it has been tried by more than 400 people. It is indeed a relatively slow uptake, but that was to be expected with a beta version. Our main challenge now is to find the right partners to help us in two aspects: increasing the accuracy of the tool and its growth potential.

    What role does Artificial Intelligence play?

    In simple words, AI is trained by our developers to be able to read articles, to understand it and to get the essential information out of it. Thanks to this upstream process, the AI used in the Science Checker will analyse millions of articles in a very short time in order to give you an answer based on many different sources of information.

    Why is it so important that there are practical application examples for the use of OA?

    Open Access is an important issue of our era. The free diffusion of academic knowledge is of paramount importance for many topics, from sanitary crisis to sustainable development. The OA community has to show the real value of it, that its activity is useful even outside of academia and related to global challenges. Open Access should not stay a topic for academic activists, it should spread for the common good.

    You told us that there are now five people working on the Science Checker. How is it financed? Who pays the bill?

    Yes, there are indeed five people who took part in the project, but in different ways. One main developer has shaped the Science Checker, Loic Rakotoson, who worked for more than four months full time on it. But he is not the only developer who has worked on it actually. Frejus Laleye and Timothée Babinet have developed part of the code used by the Science Checker. Charles Letaillieur, Opscidia’s CTO, has managed the project technically and Sylvain Massip, Opscidia’s CEO, has done most of the scientific design. In addition, together with Enzo Rodrigues, I also did a lot of work for the promotion of the Science Checker in conferences and on social media.

    Financially, this beta version of the Science Checker was developed as a project, which is now over. This project was funded by the Vietsch Foundation, that we would like to thank warmly for their support.

    We see it as a first step, and now that we have done a successful first draft, we are looking for the funding of our next iteration to keep the process going and build a second version of our Science Checker.

    How can you guarantee its sustainability?

    For the time being, we try to ensure its sustainability by focusing our maintenance on the very most important things, as we are doing it with Opscidia’s own funds. But in the future, our goal is to have a major partner, such as a large media company, in order to fund its development, communication and maintenance.

    How can libraries and information infrastructures support you? Which role do they play in the project?

    First of all, libraries can fund Open Science, Opscidia’s and others, to ensure that initiatives such as the Science Checker have the data they need. Indeed, we are directly dependent on information sources, their quantity and their quality.

    They can also help us by spreading the word about the Science Checker and Opscidia’s other activities, and of course, we are happy to partner with any interested party for the continuation of the project.

    Are you still looking for partners/support for the Science Checker? Who? How can you be supported?

    We want to continue to develop the Science Checker to improve the results and optimise its performance. It is also possible that we will have to develop additional features to the tool, if we identify other needs for the user. Thus, we continue to seek funding to help us in this direction. Moreover, we are quite open to potential technological partnerships if they are relevant for the evolution of the Science Checker. Furthermore, anyone can support us by providing feedback on its use. This is an essential source of information for us and has very often allowed us to match our tools to the needs of the users.

    Is your system open and can be (re-)used by others?

    Yes, absolutely. Our system is totally open, but we do not own the data. It comes from the Europe PMC database. The system is Open Source, the source code is accessible for anybody in our Github and can be reused freely as long as it is for non-commercial applications.

    What is your vision for the Science Checker? Where do you see it in, say, five years?

    In terms of software development, the next objectives are to increase the size of the dataset that we use, make it more precise and more general. By that, we mean that we aim for a tool capable of doing the same work for all scientific fields and not just medical sciences.

    In terms of usage, we want to partner with major media so that our Science Checker could be used on a daily basis for fact checking purposes.

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    An Interview with Sylvain Massip
    Sylvain Massip is the CEO of Opscidia, the company which is responsible for the Science Checker. He has a PhD in Physics from the University of Cambridge and ten years’ experience at the boundaries between science and industry. Passionate about research, he believes that scholarly communication can be improved, for the benefit of researchers and beyond. He took part in the scientific design of the project and its promotion.

    Portrait: Sylvain Massip©

    The post Science Checker: Open Access and Artificial Intelligence Help Verify Claims first appeared on ZBW MediaTalk.

    Research Data Management: We Need to Pick Up the Pace

    by Prof. Udo Kragl, Prof. Anne Lauber-Rönsberg, Prof. Klaus Tochtermann, Dr Oda Cordes and Dr Anna Maria Höfler

    On the initiative of the North German Conference of Science Ministers (NWMK), the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture of the State of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern organised in cooperation with the ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics the workshop “Shaping Research Data Management at North German Universities and Research Institutions Together” (German) on 15 October 2021. Three top-class panels and 200 virtually connected participants discussed strategic plans for campus-wide research data management at universities, future library services and legal aspects.

    This article summarises the main results and is intended to further promote the processes and developments that have been initiated.

    Research data is generated on a large scale worldwide, whereby the type and volume of data varies greatly depending on the discipline. The type of storage and, above all, the form of publication determine how and to what extent the data become known and usable within the scientific community, but also by the general public. In Germany, the foundations for comprehensive national research data management are being laid at federal and state level with the funding of consortia in various subject areas.

    Strategic plans for campus-wide research data management at universities

    In the panel on strategic plans for campus-wide research data management at universities, the existing range in dealing with research data was shown against the background that research data management is playing an increasingly important role in the acquisition of third-party funding. This spectrum ranges from “we don’t do that” to a self-image in dealing with research data. The associated orientation towards the FAIR principles (findable, accessible, interoperable, reusable) is embedded at national and international level in a more general discussion on the use of scientific results under the concept of Open Science: to treat data “as open as possible, as closed as necessary”. For the paradigm shift required for this in the individual disciplines, there are a number of questions and prerequisites that need to be clarified, as the discussion in the panel showed. In the academic institutions, this process has been underway for some time in some places, while in others it is still in its infancy. There are also approaches to a holistic approach. In order to make greater progress in this area, the participants of the panel and the participants at home came up with the following recommendations for all stakeholders in the science system.

    1. Research data management must be included in the curriculum of higher education and thus in the study and examination regulations, so that the awareness of young scientists is raised at an early stage.
    2. Research data management requires the staffing of experts in research data management, both for university education and for the support of scientists at universities.
    3. Research data management requires cooperation between central institutions across universities in the interest of better coordination, including non-university research institutions. The importance of intensive cooperation between institutions with the same orientation at the same location, but also across different locations, was emphasised. In this way, resources can be used effectively and, above all, a contribution can be made to the development of common standards.

    Future services offered by university libraries

    During the panel on future services offered by university libraries, it was discussed which services university libraries could develop for research data management. These could include consultation formats for finding, citing and documenting research data, dealing with the FAIR principles, offers such as the allocation of persistent identifiers for research data or the role of university libraries in consortia of the National Research Data Infrastructure Germany (NFDI). In the discussion, procedures for the introduction of offers to support research data management by university libraries were exchanged in order to derive the following recommendations for all stakeholders in the science system:

    1. Training courses should be developed and offered that enable certified further training for library staff in the field of research data management. Training is also needed for researchers, for example, in the design of data management plans, the application of FAIR principles or persistent identifiers.
    2. The range of tasks of librarians must be expanded to include new services and advice on research data management. Against the backdrop of the efficient use of resources, the services and advice offered by the university libraries should be provided jointly in a complementary and networked manner.
    3. Cost-intensive and complex infrastructures, such as for the digital long-term archiving of research data, should be established and operated cooperatively, networked and across the borders of federal states.

    Legal aspects of research data management

    This panel showed that, in view of the complexity of the legal framework, researchers should be relieved as much as possible of the legal assessment of issues related to research data management. This can be achieved by creating legal support and advice services, such as general training and information services, which, however, cannot replace a legal examination of the individual case. Therefore, on the other hand, there should also be the possibility of qualified and comprehensive legal advice in complex cases.

    Many universities, university libraries and non-university research institutions have already established advisory services on research data management. However, there is a need for clear regulation on the extent to which these should also provide legal advice. This goes hand in hand with the question of quality-assured training and further education offers and the creation of corresponding career paths and job profiles for the staff working there. In addition, sufficient legal resources should be available at universities and non-university research institutions to provide qualified and comprehensive legal advice. Furthermore, it was emphasised how important the exchange between the staff of advisory institutions on research data management and the legal offices and data protection officers of the universities and non-university research institutions is.

    With regard to specific legal issues in the respective discipline, reference was made to the responsibility of the corresponding NFDI consortia. The panel discussion showed that with regard to (co-)decision-making powers on the handling of research data, arrangements and agreements made in advance or the definition of general framework specifications of the research institutions are particularly useful. Since research data management raises a large number of still unresolved legal issues, research funding organisations should take into account the time and effort required to clarify legal issues in funding lines for project proposals.

    Recommendations for a future-oriented approach to research data

    In summary, the following core statements can be derived from the panels, which apply as a mandate to all participants in the science system:

    • Sustainable structures – first and foremost sustainable, financial staffing – are needed to establish research data management in all subject cultures in the long term.
    • Measures for a paradigm shift – both in the mindset of (early career) researchers and among infrastructure service providers – must be expanded and promoted accordingly.
    • Both the competences at the level of the German federal states and nationally distributed competences and responsibilities must be made visible.

    Ultimately, the introduction of research data management is both a task and an opportunity to make more sustainable use of the research results obtained and, above all, to be able to draw more far-reaching conclusions. With the workshop, the northern German states – according to Bettina Martin, Minister for Education, Science and Culture in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in her welcoming address – have set an active sign of scientific cooperation across borders. This will be continued to build upon, because there was broad consensus among the discussants about the topicality and necessity of dealing with this issue on an ongoing basis and, above all, of creating sustainable, viable structures with the involvement of science policy in order to establish effective research data management for researchers.

    This text has been translated from German.

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    This text has been translated from German.

    Authors:

    Prof. Udo Kragl is currently Prorector for Research and Knowledge Transfer at the University of Rostock. His responsibilities there include research data and Open Science. He is chairman of the German Catalysis Society (GeCatS) and a DFG review board member for Technical Chemistry, where these topics are also currently being discussed intensively. He holds the chair of Technical Chemistry and is head of division at the Leibniz Institute for Catalysis, Rostock.
    Portraet: ITMZ University of Rostock©

    Prof. Anne Lauber-Rönsberg is Professor of Civil Law, Intellectual Property Law, Media and Data Protection Law at TU Dresden. She led the BMBF-funded project “DataJus” on the legal framework of research data management and published a handbook on the subject with colleagues in 2021.
    Portraet: Anne Lauber-Rönsberg©, photographer: J. Gilch

    Prof. Klaus Tochtermann ist Direktor der ZBW – Leibniz-Informationszentrum Wirtschaft. Seit vielen Jahren engagiert er sich auf nationaler und internationaler Ebene für Open Science. Er ist Mitglied im Vorstand der EOSC Association (European Open Science Cloud).
    Portraet: ZBW©, photographer: Sven Wied

    Dr jur. Oda Cordes is a policy officer for research and research funding at the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture of the State of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.
    Portraet, photographer: Anne Jüngling©

    Dr Anna Maria Höfler works as a Science Policy Coordinator at the ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics as part of the Open Science research group. She is mainly concerned with the topics of research data and Open Science.
    Portraet, photographer: Rupert Pessl©

    The post Research Data Management: We Need to Pick Up the Pace first appeared on ZBW MediaTalk.