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Why Open Science is currently an increasingly important topic is discussed by Clemens Blümel in this article.
© This work by Clemens Blümel is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

Why is Open Science currently being discussed?

In order to understand why Open Science is currently being discussed and considered relevant in the scholarly as well as in the science policy realm, it appears necessary to go back to more general discussions about the role of science in society. For almost three decades, scholars and policy makers discussed the implications of the changing relationship between the sciences and society (Benner & Sandström, 2000; Geuna, 2001).

After World War II, the institutions of science in western and eastern societies were established (funding agencies, research organizations of all sizes) and trust in science and its institutions – as an engine of societal progress – was particularly high (Solla-Price, 1963). Scholars hence often speak of the Post-war period in the 1960s as the “Golden Age of Science”. Particularly in the Western World, science was provided with generous support and wide ranging autonomy if only because it assured the productivity and integrity of research. According to scholars in the field of science studies, this relationship between science and society has been described using the contract metaphor – though of course, a formal contract in that regard does not exist (Rip & van der Meulen, Barend, 1996).

Since the 1980s, however, observers of the science society interface claimed declining trust in science due to increasing numbers of fraud, non-reproducibility or scientific misbehaviour reported to the public (Vazire, 2017; Weingart, 2001). In addition, doubts were also more profound as to whether science could contribute to the social good (Michel Callon & Bowker, 1993). Both scholars and policy makers argued that for science to maintain its autonomous place in society, there is a need to restore trust in the scientific enterprise (European Commission, 2016; OECD, 2015; The Royal Society, 2012).

Since the beginning of the 21st century, different societal crises, such as the financial crisis, the climate crisis, global health crises (such as the recent pandemic) but also decreasing societal cohesion have increased expectations as to what the sciences are to provide in adressing these challenges. While Open Science relates to internal problems in the scientific system, its institutions and governance mechanisms, it is held that more open and transparent research practices may also contribute to adressing societal challenges in a more productive way, by for instance, allowing for more productive collaborations across and within the various scientific fields. If, for instance, science projects would be transparent and globally visible, scientists of all career stages and in different regions may more easily join forces and contribute to provide solutions to overarching problems.

Open Science can be understood as such a movement, aimed at building up trust by making the sciences more transparent and accessible. It is worthwile noting that there are also other movements and semantics with similar notions that also refer to or can be related to the more general aim of restoring trust in the scientific enterprise, such as Responsible Research and Innovation or the Societal Impact movement (Flink & Kaldewey, 2018). These movements share visions of a more transparent scientific enterprise but may not refer systematically to the various pillars established within the Open Science movement (Open Access, Open Peer Review, Open Data, Open Metrics).


Please answer the following questions in the commentary and discuss at least one comment of your peer learners:

  1. Which goal or central aspect of the open science movement is the most relevant for you and why?
  2. Which relevant communities being active in promoting Open Science do you know?
© This work by Clemens Blümel is licensed under CC BY 4.0.
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Openness in Science and Innovation

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