Report on the 2022 Open Science Conference by Science Europe

Science Europe organized a large online conference on Open Science during 18 and 19 October 2022. Science Europe is based in Brussels and represents the major European public organisations that ‘fund or perform ground-breaking research in Europe’, according to their website. They claim to bring together the expertise of some of the largest and most respected European research organisations and aim to jointly push the frontiers of how scientific research is produced and delivers benefits to society. With this in mind it makes sense this European organisation took up the effort to organize an online conference on open science. On behalf of the Royal Netherlands Historical Society (KNHG) and the scholarly journal BMGN – Low Countries Historical Review, Antia Wiersma and Tessa Lobbes participated in this online conference. In this short report they present their most important take aways.

Competition is out, collaboration is in

The emphasis on collaboration in science and research, instead of the traditional focus on competition, was stressed by quite a few speakers, in the plenary sessions as well as in the breakout sessions. Collaboration also means the sharing of knowledge, in the scholarly community and with society at large. What is considered knowledge is broadly defined: not only research ‘end products’ such as books or articles qualify as such, but also data sets, raw research data and analysis, and so on. All this public available knowledge is grouped under the heading ‘open science’. The COVID-19 example came to the front quite a few times to prove the point of the use and necessity of open science.

The tyranny of metrics

When competition and metrics are no longer the building blocks by which we measure excellence, the question becomes how to recognize and reward collaboration in research and science. This topic is acute in the current debate on open science, especially when early career scholars are involved. Their precarious position came back to the discussions time and again.

One of the most interesting plenary presentations came from Tony Ross-Hellauer of the Austrian University of Graz. He presented the outcomes of their project On-Merrit in which they looked into the equity of open science in order to learn lessons how to avoid that the ‘rich get richer’ from open science. Interestingly enough one of their findings is that there is a huge mismatch between personal and institutional values, especially in issues such as open science, collegiality, data sharing, etc.

Scientific colonialism

Although the conference took place online and quite a large number of participants hid behind a black screen, it is safe to say it was mostly an European or Western affair. This is also the case when we talk about the push for open access and open science. The Global North (in particular Europe and North America) dominates the agenda by introducing policies like Plan S. In this policy no preference for a specific publication model was specified. This resulted in a growth of green and gold publishing models offered by publishers. In these models readers get to read for free but authors or their institutions still have to pay hefty fees to publish. As a result, research done in the Global South is pushed even more to the periphery (as is the case for certain disciplines, notably the Humanities, and research done by women). This push to the periphery was called ‘scientific colonialism’ and deserves the attention of funders, governments and research institutions alike.

Going for diamond

Four years after the introduction of Plan S the president of Science Europe Marc Schiltz concludes that legacy publishers have not been innovative. The so wanted change and innovation in open access publishing came from learned societies (like KNHG) and research institutions (like the Humanities Cluster of the KNAW) and was paid for by funders (like NWO in the Netherlands when they funded OpenJournals). These innovative models are all diamond models, in which there are no pay walls for readers and authors alike. So it was great to learn that Science Europe has drafted a Diamond Open Access Action Plan. This plan proposes ‘to align and develop common resources for the entire Diamond OA ecosystem, including journals and platforms, while respecting the cultural, multilingual, and disciplinary diversity that constitutes the strength of the sector’. And that is great news for all involved in Diamond open access publishing, since Science Europe represents the major European funders and research institutions. So it is safe to conclude that the future is diamond.

Antia Wiersma is the director of the KNHG bureau, Tessa Lobbes is the managing editor of BMGN – Low Countries Historical Review


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