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Concepts of Open Science

Currently, there is no accepted overarching definition of Open Science, though there were several attempts.
© This work by Clemens Blümel is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

Definitions of Open Science

So, what is Open Science? There is no easy answer to this. Some scholars argue that Science at least in its form since the 17th century has always been open. Yet, with the growing commercialization of scholarly publishing (and indexing) and the growing threats of commercial intellectual property rights, questions of accessibility and reusability became more pressing. Since the 2000s, these different questions of dealing with access and re-usability were assembled under the umbrella term of Open Science, in part due to the efforts of policy makers, particularly in the EU.

Currently, there is no accepted overarching definition of Open Science, though there were several attempts (Stracke 2020, 20). In very general terms, Open Science can be described as a transformative project, aimed at making the sciences more transparent, accountable, inclusive and accessible (Gertraud Leimüller, Clemens Blümel, & Benedikt Fecher, 2018).

These are visions of how science should be (not how it currently is): more efficient, more democratic and more collaborative. Yet, the consistency of Open Science as a term can be surely questioned, because the different goals of Open Science relate to very different communities and understandings of how science should be changed (Fecher & Friesike, 2014).

What is more, the term Open Science has more recently been criticized as being insufficiently inclusive, since the term appears to leave the Humanities and Social Sciences aside. Scholars have therefore suggested we speak of Open Scholarship in order to relate Openness to more diverse research fields, yet with differing challenges and initiatives with regard to Openness in research and teaching.

Open Science and Open Scholarship is hence not one, but different initiatives in the scientific system. In the introductory video of this module, I argued that these different initiatives can be understood as responses to different crises in the science system, that is, the access crisis, the certification, the quality of research crisis, and the trust crisis. It can be held that these crises or problems of the scientific enterprise may have spurred the establishment or the growth of initiatives responding to these crises, some of which are related to the pillars of Open Science. For instance, the quality and replication crisis (Vazire, 2017), that is, the observation that results of studies could not be reproduced have also spurred attempts to provide data openly in order to allow for more systematic and holistic quality assurance.

In similar ways, the increasing concentration in the scholarly publishing industry with rising costs for libraries and universities has given rise to initiatives for free access (Budapest Declaration 2002) and distribution of publications (Berlin Declaration) to emerge. Yet, the different initiatives towards Openness have also benifited from socio-technological innovations, such as novel digital infrastructures for publishing and communication allowing for wider participation and cooperation.

Since Open Science and Open Scholarship covers more than the aspect of quality in research, but also aims at allowing for stakeholders and different audiences to participate in the scientific enterprise, the normative project of Open Science as a set of initiatives can also be broken down to the following calls, which can be termed the calls for transparency, verifiability, inclusion, and access to scholarly knowledge (Fecher et al. 2018).

© 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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