A roadmap for wider access to scientific results
Open science and new technology, which make research findings freely available to everyone, have revolutionised academic research. An EU-funded project has proposed solutions and recommendations to ensure scientific discoveries are communicated as widely as possibly for the benefit of other researchers, industry and society as a whole.
© Coloures-Pic #108338488 2019, source:stock.adobe.com
The traditional scientific process has long been ruled by the 'publish or perish' mantra. This tradition is shifting as more research is being made available to a broader audience as part of the move towards open science.
This shift represents a new way of sharing knowledge using digital technologies and new collaborative tools. It has become a core strategy in Europe as a means to disseminate research to a wider audience a way to boost innovation and competitiveness.
The EU-funded project OPENUP investigated the challenges facing this changing science landscape. For example, the total number of scholarly publications rose by 23 % between 2008 and 2014, according to a report by UNESCO. This increase in output and the demand for more open, transparent and reproducible science has led to changing requirements for those involved in the research process, such as publishers and funders.
By analysing how research is peer reviewed, assessed and disseminated OPENUP achieved five key goals. It mapped out new solutions to better suit the needs of researchers, and developed OPENUP hub, an interactive, online resource which hosts information, toolkits, guidelines and other resources.
Furthermore, the project team also defined methods, roles and processes of open peer review, research dissemination and assessment and tested them in seven pilot projects. OPENUP also made recommendations to inform policymaking on open science at EU and national levels.
'At OPENUP, we have successfully established a broad knowledge base and centralised expertise on open peer review, innovative dissemination of research and alternative impact assessment,' says project research manager Vilius Stanciauskas from the Public Policy and Management Institute in Lithuania. 'All the information, methods and tools are freely available to everyone on the OPENUP hub.
A community-oriented strategy
OPENUP began by conducting a broad analysis and pan-European survey of three key areas peer review, research dissemination and alternative metrics which includes tracking the impact of scholarly discussion and output online.
It engaged with research communities, publishers, institutions and funders through workshops, interviews, outreach and training events. The Open Science Fair in Athens in 2017 and several other conferences on open science topics were organised by OPENUP in collaboration with other projects.
In addition, social media was used to share news and provoke debate on open science, research and innovation as well as gender in science.
Researchers across Europe were asked for their perceptions and practices in peer review, innovative dissemination and impact measurement. Overall, the survey showed that researchers favoured open access practices, with 9 % of the respondents giving negative opinions about the process. Feedback revealed that the main factors hindering the open sharing of outputs were financial support, particularly in countries with less developed open access systems.
Creating the hub
Open scholarship can contribute to universal access to knowledge for everyone worldwide, including countries with less resources. In addition, open science can facilitate reuse of scientific information and foster innovation and the creation of new products and services.
Thus, OPENUP built an advanced and shared knowledge base and a collaborative network to support the transformation towards more open scholarship across Europe. The project launched the OPENUP hub, a collaborative resource which hosts a catalogue of tools and services alongside recommended methodologies and best practices, success stories and reports.
The project team launched seven pilot projects to validate their initial findings and test various aspects of the academic review cycle in life sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities, and energy.
OPENUP examined different aspects of open science, such as peer review for conferences, research data, transferring research to the web and reaching businesses and the public with research output. The pilots connected targeted research communities, empowering them to apply and adopt innovative open science approaches.
One of the project's key goals was to develop policy recommendations: five recommendations with specific actions are now being shared widely to be integrated into decision-making processes.
The recommendations include implementing more projects to test open research impacts, creating incentives to strengthen monitoring of innovative research dissemination, training researchers on alternative research impact measurements, giving more support to implementing new policies, and providing further funding for research into the impact open science has on solving gender and diversity issues.
'From day one of the project, OPENUP partners worked on creating links and collaborating with researcher communities as well as the key stakeholders of the research life cycle,' says Stanciauskas. 'The feedback received from EU and national policymakers, research funders, institutional decision-makers, libraries and scientific communities was crucial in formulating the final project output policy recommendations that are actionable and highly relevant to the stakeholders.'