Reflections on the Open Science Fair 2019

Posted by on 18 November 2019 - 10:37am
Open science fair
Photo courtesy of The Open Science Fair

By Rachael Ainsworth, Community Manager and Fellow of the Software Sustainability Institute

This blog post was first published on 

The Open Science Fair 2019 took place 16-18 September in Porto, Portugal with a focus on synergies for sustainable, open and responsible research.

Day 1

Yannis Ioannidis (Head of OpenAIRE, President and General Director of ATHENA Research and Innovation Center) opened the second Open Science Fair by highlighting that the PI of the recent exoplanet discovery with water vapour claimed that "this would not have been possible without data that was open".

The opening keynote “European Open Science Cloud: Open science, innovation and data - building EOSC together” was delivered by Liina Munari, Deputy Head of the e-Infrastructure and European Open Science Cloud unit of the European Commission (video here). She began by discussing Horizon Europe, the next research and innovation programme to succeed Horizon 2020. It will keep the same ethos - Open Science, Open Innovation, Open to the World - but will reinforce openness through an Open Science Policy. Specifically, Horizon Europe will go beyond the open access policy of Horizon 2020 and require open access to publications, data and research data management plans in order to create more opportunities for collaboration and data reuse. When it came to talking about EOSC, many of us were left with more questions than answers. EOSC aims to provide researchers with facilities and support for reproducibility, research and innovation, communications networks, and so on, but no details have been given as to what that will actually look like. 

The second keynote was what I was most looking forward to at the conference: “Open Science: A shift in the conversation” by Paola Masuzzo, Data Scientist at TP Vision and independent researcher by the Institute for Globally Distributed Open Research and Education (slides here, video here). She opened by stating that we need Open Science for sustainability because restricted and selective access to science delays knowledge and solutions. She emphasised that making something free is not enough and signing DORA is not enough, and that there is a gap between attitudes and behaviours. We therefore need to talk more about not caring about journal impact factors, about “fail tales” and about mental health - “when we reject failure, we create a culture of punishment, artificial rewards, and scientific bias but when we embrace failure, we cultivate a culture of acceptance, tolerance, and learning.” Instead of focusing on the impact factor, we need to begin focusing on the “happiness factor” - how many research evaluation committees ask scholars about how they have felt so far in their working environment? She wrapped up by stating that if we are here for Open Science and we don’t want to exclude anyone, then equity, diversity and inclusiveness must be non-negotiable, and retitled her talk to “Open Science: it’s time we listen!” A question and answer session with the keynote speakers followed (video here), and the speakers were asked, “how can we sustain open science?” Paola answered, “Close subscriptions to journals. Don’t pay them anymore, use the money to do better science.”

We then broke out into parallel sessions and I joined the workshop “Lessons Learned From a Year of European Open Science Training” from the ORION Project (presentation here). The project delivers open science training to PhD researchers, postdocs, research managers, funders, policymakers and project officers across Europe. Their workshops begin by using the FOSTER Open Science Cafe as an icebreaker to get participants talking about relevant issues, followed by an introduction presentation to get everyone’s definition of Open Science on the same page. This is followed by a “meet the expert” presentation from someone local (to the institution and/or country, such as a researcher, librarian or other advocate) who presents about Open Science in the context of their institutional or national landscape; they claim that this is the best activity that they do, as it gives the audience someone to connect with long after the event is over in addition to providing a local perspective. They follow this with a brain walk training technique: flip charts are set up around the room with a topic written on them (such as Open Access, Open Data and Public Engagement/Outreach) and participants walk around writing down something that they’ve learned about each topic. The organisers find that this technique is inclusive of folks who are more quiet or introverted as it allows them to more comfortably share their ideas; it is also an easy way to capture ideas. The training continues with a role playing exercise between groups of three, where one person adopts a persona that is opposed to Open Science, and the other two participants work to convince them of its benefits. This allows the audience to gain practice advocating for openness while identifying and considering perspectives they might not have heard before. The workshops end with the participants writing down their individual action plans: what you are going to do in the next week, month, year? The ORION Project found this to be a good way to close a workshop, but want to figure out how to follow up with participants on their plans in the future. I thought these were all really good take-home lessons for future Institute activities. If you are interested in hosting an Open Science training workshop, you can find out more information here and they will be running a MOOC for Open Science in the Life Sciences starting 21 October (register here)!

Day 1 ended with the Poster Session, and I presented a one minute lightning talk about my poster on “The Turing Way: A Handbook for Reproducible Data Science” which you can find on Zenodo here (and you can read a blog post about The Turing Way by Institute Fellow Becky Arnold here).

Turing way slide
Photo courtesy of The Open Science Fair
Photo by Rachael Ainsworth

Day 2

Day 2 began with a panel on Research Assessment (you can watch the panel video here and the debate video here). Bernard Rentier, Rector Emeritus at the University of Liège, argued that we need to change the way that research and researchers are assessed because quantitative assessment promotes competitiveness rather than cooperation, and quantitative metrics induce over-publication, which has led to the growth of distrust and frustration. More importantly, current assessment methods are killing the diversity of researchers. The research landscape is moving towards Open Science and assessment should reflect this - we need a shift from authorship to contributorship. Frank Miedema, Vice Rector for Research at Utrecht University and chair of the Utrecht University Open Science Program, reflected on Paola Masuzzo’s keynote from the day before and exclaimed that the people who are in power should act! Bregt Saenen, Policy and Project Officer at the European University Association, presented the results of the 2019 Open Science Survey on research assessment (on Zenodo here). He showed that research publications and attracting external research funding were the most important factors to institutions hiring researchers, and that Open Science and Open Access were dead last. Furthermore, the survey asked universities, “How is academic work evaluated for the purpose of research careers?” There was a huge groan from the audience as the data revealed that the Journal Impact Factor and H-index are still heavily used metrics for measuring research output. Everyone seemed to agree that the current methods for assessing research need to change, but there was no clear solution on how to implement this change without negatively affecting early career researchers who are entrenched within the current system. A quote from the panel that was repeated throughout the rest of the conference was, “Open Science is a revolution - the difficulty of every revolution, is not to sacrifice a generation”.

I next attended the workshop “Time to Professionalise Data Stewardship” (you can find the workshop materials on Zenodo here). The transition to Open Science and FAIR data requires increased provision and professionalism of data stewardship, but how do we pay data stewards? What do they do all day? What is the career progression? The workshop began with a mix of case study presentations focussing on the need for professionalising data stewardship roles and how to go from theory and policy to practice and implementation. I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between working to professionalise this role and the Research Software Engineer role which has been professionalised in the UK, and I think these communities could learn a lot from each other! We were then divided into discussion groups, and I joined the topic Community of Practice for Data Stewardship. We identified some of the main challenges of “community” to be: finding your peers, establishing, leading and funding the community, finding the time and resources to network, physical location and differences in education, backgrounds, disciplines, practices and goals. We then discussed best practices of others that we see as an example, identifying the RSE community as an example to follow for formalising the role, organising engagement events (RSEconUK), twitter, a formal society and engaging in the bigger picture. Finally, we discussed how the work of the initiatives presented within the workshop could help, suggesting that they can co-sponsor events/conferences to bring members together, clearly defining the roles/tasks/skills of a data steward to help others identify with the community, raising awareness and providing examples.

Day 3

Day 3 began with a panel on Plan S (you can watch the panel video here and the debate video here). Neil Jacobs of cOAlition S did his best to reassure everyone that Plan S is not only about article processing charges (APCs). He highlighted the three routes to Open Access (Gold OA journals and platforms, repositories and transformative agreements), and that it is about transparency in pricing without aiming to control the market. However, the responses from some of the other panelists indicated that there is still too much emphasis on APCs. Vasco Vaz from Portugal's major national funder FCT, illustrated that the problem lies in the 4th Plan S principle: “Where applicable, Open Access publication fees are covered by the Funders or research institutions, not by individual researchers; it is acknowledged that all researchers should be able to publish their work Open Access.” This is not something that funders are able to commit to based on the current (rising) costs of OA. Luke Drury presented the ALLEA perspective that it is essential for researchers to be involved in the discussions around Plan S, that there needs to be a dialogue with research performing communities globally, and that we need to have tools and mechanisms to make it easy to implement the Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA). ALLEA is against transformative agreements, suggesting that we need to consider new forms of publishing (open data, open science) and constantly ask “who benefits?” Luke finished by declaring that researchers need to take back control and not let research be dictated by commercial interests. Koen Vermeir represented the Global Young Academy, acknowledging that Plan S is trying to fix a broken system, but that it is too focused on the money. He urged that Plan S needs to be bold in its plans to protect researchers by reformulating two questions: 1. Who pays? Libraries, institutions, funders, or authors? And 2. Who has access? To reading? To writing? What is the role of inclusiveness in this whole programme?

I gave a quick lightening talk to promote my demo presentation on The Turing Way, and then delivered my demo three times (20 minutes each). I presented on the current state of the project, how we built the community, how to get involved and then walked through the Turing Way book and GitHub repository (my demo presentation slides are on Zenodo here). I was also lucky that one of my demonstrations was recorded as part of an episode for the ORION Open Science Podcast which you can listen to here!

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