Dr. Carly Strasser is a Program Officer at the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. She works within the Data-Driven Discovery Initiative, an effort focused on promoting both researchers and the practices required for impactful data-driven research. She has a special interest in open science and improving scholarly communication. Previously, Carly was a Research Data Specialist at the California Digital Library where she helped develop and implement CDL’s researcher-focused service, and worked to promote data sharing and good data management practices by researchers. Carly spoke with IPR License’s correspondent Paula Gantz about Open Science, a topic she addressed recently at the Association of Learned Professional Society Publishers’ annual conference in Noordwijt, the Netherlands.
How would you describe Open Science?
I think of Open Science as really being the amalgamation of all the other opens. It’s the open source software for science. It’s open access to articles. It’s open data which means it’s really available for anyone to use. The idea of Open Science is thinking about how to make the processes as transparent as possible from the first day that you start thinking about the research project, all the way through until all of the outputs are preserved and publicly available.
There’s probably some resistance to Open Science, both for technical reasons, but also because scientists may be loath to share.
There are different levels of resistance and acceptance at all the different stages of careers. For the early career researchers, a lot of them are willing to embrace some of these Open Science principles. However, they’re at more of a risk of putting themselves in a precarious position if they do make everything publicly available because they might get scooped or they might be put at an undue advantage or some of their competitors might be able to use that against them.
So at the early career stage, you definitely see both. You see people who are excited and you see people that are weary and you see lots of combos of the two. At the later career stages, there’s a feeling that this isn’t the way that we did it when I was coming up and so I don’t really see the relevance or importance of this now. But, kind of in contrast to the early career researchers, a lot of the later career researchers are tenured and therefore have the flexibility to pursue some of these new modes of research.
Historically it’s been said that competition brings the best results. Do you see a way to build in the positive aspects of competition with Open Science?
I don’t think that they’re mutually exclusive. The idea that you make everything public, in some ways, you could see it as almost bragging. Of being able to say, “These are all the things that I’ve managed to accomplish and what have you managed to accomplish in a similar period of time?” And so, in that sense, it doesn’t necessarily cause problems for competition. It’s adding complexity in terms of the way that people talk about their research, the types of data that they have available to use in their research, the types of collaborations they can build.
What about institutions? They make a lot of their money from patents generated by research discoveries.
It’s misleading to think that the majority of research will result in something that can bring in money for institutions. And regardless, there are ways to license things that are openly available, so that they can still be used or monetized by the campuses. It does require some delicate conversations, but because of the quality of the science that needs to get done, it’s a no-brainer that transparency is something the institutions need.
How is the data going to be available? Where is it going to reside?
There are tons and tons of repositories, some of them specific to a data types, some of them just specific to a discipline, some of them are general. For publication, you usually have institutional repositories that can handle Open Access data for software and code. More and more often, a lot of these repositories are accepting things like Jupiter Notebooks which have the code alongside the data so you can archive everything together. We’ll see a lot more attention being paid to these infrastructure projects that are really going to make it possible to share things.
How will anyone find the data?
There’s a lot of work being done to figure out how to index data. More importantly, I think publishers are talking about allowing researchers to cite data in reference lists and are placing information about the data underlying the publication at the top of the article. It’s also something that we ask our researchers who have grants from us to report on. We ask them to send us lists of all the data sets that they’ve published. It’s really about elevating the status of the data in general and having folks realize that you can treat it just like a publication.
What about data security?
Security is an issue for certain types of data and often the repositories that handle those types of data have security measures in place to keep them from being problematic. But the general rule is open data should only apply to the things that aren’t going to cause harm if they are made open. So patient data or endangered species data or things like that, those are not necessarily the types of things that we are advocating for people to make open.
And lastly, what are the most positive outcomes anticipated from Open Science?
The biggest benefit from Open Science is going to be accelerating the pace of discoveries. If things are openly available, workflows, data sets, methods, papers, then it reduces the barriers to entry for other countries and for other people that are not in a traditional university. But it also allows more traditional researchers to really be able to build more effectively on the work of others.
Paula Gantz (www.paulagantz.com) consults for learned societies in the U.S., Europe and China. Her focus is on new products, new technologies and innovative business models. She has over 35 years experience in scientific and consumer publishing and an MBA from The Wharton School.