SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit

2018 lecture

'Open science matters: making science more efficient?'

Report by Anna Severin (1st year PhD, Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Berne, Switzerland)

In this year’s Marie Jahoda lecture ‘Open science matters: making science more efficient?’, Dr Liz Allen, Director of Strategic Initiatives at F1000, delivered an enlightening presentation on the potential benefits of open science and the main policy imperatives for the transition to more open ways of doing research. Dr Allen has examined the difficulties and challenges that come with the implementation of open science. In this lecture, she summarised her findings from this work and also provoked radical thinking around what the future of science might and should look like, and whether open science can help to address the multifaceted challenges science is facing presently and in the future.

Dr Allen described how the ways in which science is done currently experience a pivotal shift from ‘closed’ to ‘open’. This movement partly emerged as a reaction to the criticism of more traditional ways of conducting and sharing scientific research, and partly was triggered by new technological possibilities offered by the Internet. As such, the open science movement is related to a bigger picture, which is the wish to embrace change and to do science in a more open, democratic and collaborative way while generating more impact at a faster rate than ever before. Even though open science is very much focused on openly sharing the outputs of research, openness can be applied to all stages of the research process and includes a multitude of facets, including open notebooks, open data, open educational resources, citizen science and open-peer review.

Throughout the lecture, Dr Allen pointed to the difficulties and challenges that come with the implementation of open science. The first challenge associated with implementing open science is the inclusion of researchers and publishers in formulating policies and mandates for open science. Currently, public funding organisations and research foundations develop open-science policies and thereby decide on the direction of open science, while researchers and publishers face the challenge of implementing respective policies and adapt to these relatively quickly. In order to design the pathway to open science more smoothly and to better address the needs and issues researchers and publishers have when implementing open-science policies, these stakeholders would have to be included in formulating respective policies in the first place.

The second challenge identified by Liz Allen is the fact that there remains significant uncertainty regarding the academic, economic and social implications of open science: is conducting science openly by default the best way to address the challenges science currently faces? What is urgently needed to answer these questions is more research on research – a research field that is, however, underfunded presently.

Launched in 1997, the Marie Jahoda lecture is held annually to honour the outstanding contributions that Professor Marie Jahoda CBE made to SPRU. The AustrianBritish social psychologist came to the University of Sussex in the 1960s and significantly influenced the academic life of the University and its governance. After her official retirement, Marie Jahoda began a new period of active participation in the interdisciplinary research of SPRU. She made major contributions to research programmes on social and technological forecasting.

Inviting some of the greatest current thinkers on issues in academia and policy to speak at SPRU, the Marie Jahoda lecture not only has become a go-to event for scholars directly involved with science and technology policy studies. More than that, the lecture also reaches out beyond the scopes of academia to a broader audience – something open science also has the capacity to do.