Open science? Good idea, but we don't always manage

It is important that scientific data is made freely accessible to everyone, so believe the vast majority of researchers. But in practice, only half of them are working towards this goal, reports research funding body NWO. The TU/e's Open Science team acknowledges the cited stumbling blocks: it costs time and money, and without expert help it is not easy.

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More than a thousand researchers from the NWO's database completed a questionnaire in September, to give their view of open science: what do they think of it and how are they using it?

The notion of open science encompasses a wide range of practices designed to make the fruits of scientific research accessible to everyone. Thus, for instance, making articles free to read, sharing research data, and involving the public in science.


NWO is a strong supporter: open science increases impact, says the research funding body, on both science and society. All publicly funded research should be freely available.

Evidently, this view is shared by most scientists. Among the respondents, 87 percent feels (very) positively about open science, with young scientists even more so: 94 percent. Only 4 percent of researchers are (very much) against it.

But it does not always happen. A good many scientists publish regularly in open access (read: free) journals, but it is less common for research data to be shared and for the public to be involved in research. Just over half of scientists practice these forms of open science.

So what is stopping them? 71 percent cites lack of money. Publishing in an open access format, for example, costs money (to enable free readership), so it requires financial resources on the part of the scientists. Between 40 and 50 percent don't have the time open science requires, or are lacking good infrastructure and clear guidelines.


“We recognize the barriers cited in this survey,” says Kristina Korshunova, speaking on behalf of the Open Science team at TU/e. “For example, sharing research data in accordance with funding body guidelines takes a lot of time and requires knowledge. In view of this, data stewards at Data Management & Library (DML) help researchers with the guidelines on research data management. Help them to make their data not only open, but also FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable).”

For open access publishing the cost is indeed an obstacle, thinks the Open Science team. “To support researchers, we have Read and Publish agreements with publishers that allow authors at TU/e publish 'open access' in selected journals.”

Korshunova did not complete the NWO questionnaire in September and cannot say with any confidence what the attitude is of TU/e researchers. Daniël Lakens, a member of TU/e Young Academy of Engineering, has the feeling that the survey results hold true for Eindhoven. “People are willing and believe it is important to share data. But it is a skill you have to learn or else you need the help of an expert.” The data stewards at DML are connected to the various departments.

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