What Is Openness in Research and Why Is It Important?

Jul 2, 2021 Ver este post en Español

Updated May 23rd, 2022

When people hear "Open Access" (OA), they think "free access." Although OA is an important aspect of Open Access publishing, OA is much more than that. According to the Open Definition, which establishes the principles that define openness in relation to data and content, openness refers to information that can be freely used, modified, and shared by anyone for any purpose.

It is no secret that true openness brings excellent opportunities for academia, while transparency is essential for trust and credibility in the research community.

This article will cover openness in research, why it’s important, the characteristics of open research data, the protection of data ownership, and the obstacles that you may encounter. Lastly, you’ll learn how Orvium paves the way toward openness.

What Is Openness in Research?

Openness refers to the principle of freedom of access by any interested individual or group to the underlying data, processes, and the final results of research. Openness is an essential part of the research community affecting everyone in science; researchers can make significant progress when they have access to all the information relevant to their research.

What Is an Example of Openness?

An example of openness is the practice of open notebook science. It’s about putting the personal or laboratory notebook of a researcher online, accompanied by all raw and processed data and any additional materials as this information is generated. It’s one of the most transparent approaches to research and includes the least significant, failed, and unpublished experiments, otherwise known as negative results.

Open-notebook science is essential because it implies that the research is reported on an ongoing basis, without significant delay. This, in turn, enables others to understand precisely how research happens within a field or a specific research group. This research is then valuable to collaborators, prospective students, or future employers.

Why Is Openness Important in Research?

The world is increasingly collaborative. This means that openness and the free exchange of information among scientists are supposed to be the main pillars of the scientific community. Unfortunately, this is still not something universally followed by enough institutions. Therefore, lack of openness and transparency means that scientific problem solving is constrained to a few scientists who work in secret and typically fail to take advantage of the entire accumulation of scientific knowledge available.

Alternatively, collaboration can have many benefits. It can:

  • lead to more sustainable motivation
  • result in incredibly rapid progress
  • often lead to better results
  • be a lot more fun.

Additionally, when researchers share data and knowledge early in the research process, they help spread the word about the latest scientific advances.

Thankfully, the current need for a global governance of science by European institutions has accelerated the need for openness. These institutions consider the transition towards openness a fundamental step in fostering the circulation of knowledge as the direction towards faster and wider innovation. One such institution is the European Commission with its Open Science policy.

Together with scientific communities, such institutions have started a dialogue to build a common infrastructure that will allow scientists, citizens, and companies to access a shared pool of scientific resources. This environment is known as the European Open Science Cloud (EOSC).

The EOSC brings together international and European stakeholders, initiatives, and infrastructures. It does so in a federated, virtual, and trusted environment. It cuts across borders and scientific disciplines to store, process, share and reuse data and software, which makes these infrastructures indispensable when it comes to openness in research.

Open Research Data Characteristics

Open research data has been considered a driving force of scientific transparency. It refers to the data supporting scientific research results with no restrictions, allowing anyone access.

The benefits of openly sharing research data are essentially endless, and can include:

  • more possibilities for collaboration
  • reproducibility of research
  • encouraging other researchers to share their data publicly
  • increased likeliness to be cited
  • increased likeliness to be accepted for publication in a journal.

The benefits of sharing open research data are essentially endless. When researchers make their data public, they increase trust and transparency in their work, enable others to build upon their work, and reproduce, reuse, and validate their findings.

Protecting the Ownership of Open Data

Open data can be protected and safely reused in several ways. Here are a few examples:

  • Horizon 2020 - the biggest EU research and innovation initiative, with a simple structure and open to everyone, is seen to drive economic growth and create jobs. Its main goal is to ensure Europe produces top-notch science, removes barriers to innovation, and makes it easier to deliver innovation from the public and private sectors.
  • FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable, and re-usable data) principles - a measurable set of principles that have improved the reuse of scholarly data. The main objective of these principles is to guarantee the validity and reproducibility of the published scientific data. Open data is therefore easily accessible to the entire community, and by following this set of principles, we establish a common foundation that increases the potential of open data.  
  • Creative Commons (CC) - clearly establishes how information can be reused. Research results have to be open to add value to research and CCs ensure researchers get the credit they deserve for their work and allow others to copy, distribute, and make some use of their work (full licenses here).

Roadblocks to Openness in Science

Some researchers continue to choose to not publish openly because of certain fears, limitations, hesitations, or personal or intrinsic reasons.

  • Competition and fear of being “scooped” - sometimes, researchers feel pressure (because of other researchers, journals, etc.) to publish more and fast than to do it correctly and with the time needed, which leads to lower quality research. At the same time, many researchers fear being “scooped” (someone else stealing your ideas or researching the same topic at the same time). In addition to being a source of stress for researchers, these fears also become a barrier in Open Science, especially with open data. Fear of competition and of being scooped was at the top of researchers’ lists as a disadvantage to open publishing.
  • Authorship issues - it becomes rather tricky to get permission from all partners and researchers of a large collaborative project; researchers would need to talk to many parties to obtain permission to share the data openly. Another roadblock is the fact that some researchers have trust in close peers, but not necessarily in the research community or society at large.
  • Data characteristics - some datasets are extensive; such is the case in astrophysics, for example. Providing adequate metadata so another researcher can quickly understand what they are looking at and all the right tools that allow them to access the data become difficult. Large datasets result in additional time to load and store data, and additional machine space is needed.
  • Fear of scrutiny - not all researchers can handle having their work scrutinized. This means that they would rather not publish their research than have someone look at their work in detail. They would prefer to publish only their final, presentable results.

As long as these fears and limitations are properly addressed, cultural change can happen, which can lead to making openness mainstream.

Learn To Be More Open

Openness in research is slowly but surely becoming the default for the scientific community and the community at large. As more and more researchers become comfortable publishing under an OA umbrella, roadblocks won’t be around forever. You know the benefits and advantages of working collaboratively and you also understand why and how openness is important to research.

Now, you’ll see how Orvium helps with openness. Orvium is an Open Access platform that:

  • Helps researchers disseminate their work
  • Supports scientific collaboration and guarantees access to research
  • Streamlines open peer-review
  • Collaborates with OpenAIRE and Google Scholar
  • Increases researcher visibility and offers them a chance to expand their audience by having their papers accessible both in OpenAIRE and Orvium.

Head over to our website for more information.