Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) is at the forefront of the Open Science movement, promoting transparency, collaboration, and responsible research practices. In a recent interview, Antonio SchettinoOpens external, Ph.D., Head of the Open and Responsible Science Department, Willem ScholtenOpens external, Project Leader of Open & Responsible Science and John Mills, Ph.D., Open Science Advisor, discussed the significance of Open Science and how it benefits not only researchers but society overall.
Open Science: A Global Imperative
The conversation began by highlighting the global relevance of Open Science, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. "The research went beyond national and domestic priorities and became this global thing that we had to solve," noted Mills. Open Science played a crucial role in connecting researchers worldwide, allowing them to share data and findings rapidly. It facilitated swift collaboration, enabling the scientific community to address pressing global challenges like the pandemic.
Fast-Tracking Research with Open Science
Open Science emphasizes the swift dissemination of research findings, enabling researchers to share their work more promptly than through traditional publication channels. Mills explained, "If I make a breakthrough on developing a vaccine for COVID-19 today, by the end of the afternoon, I can publish my preprint with the initial data and analysis." This rapid sharing allows other researchers to build on the work immediately, accelerating the collective effort to find solutions to global challenges.
Open Science Goes Beyond Data Sharing
While data sharing is a fundamental aspect of Open Science, it encompasses more than that. Mills pointed out, "It's the analysis as well, right?" Open Science allows researchers to check each other's work and verify claims more quickly by providing access to data and the analytical processes. This transparency helps prevent repeating the same mistakes and encourages continuous improvement.
Addressing Societal Needs through Open Science
Scholten emphasized that Open Science isn't just about the research process; it's also about addressing societal needs. "Deeper impact is created both by researchers collaborating with each other and looking at social needs." he said. Researchers are increasingly engaging with citizens and end-users to co-create research questions and outcomes, ensuring that research is aligned with real-world issues.
Promoting Science Literacy for the Public
Beyond academia, Open Science is hugely important for the broader public because it fosters science literacy, empowering citizens to critically evaluate information and avoid misinformation. Schettino explained that Open Science equips the public with the ability to scrutinize claims made by companies, governments, or individuals and make informed decisions.
Erasmus University Rotterdam's Commitment
When asked about how Open Science aligns with EUR’s goals, Scholten emphasized that EUR’s slogan, "Creating Positive Societal Impact," is closely tied to Open Science principles. He stressed that openness, transparency, and accountability are key to achieving this impact, and the university is actively supporting these principles. Rector Magnificus, Annelien Bredenoord, underscored the importance by sayingOpens external “we fully endorse Open and Responsible Science at EUR, for it increases the impact of science, the quality of science and it promotes fairness and justice by engaging larger audiences.”
In August, EUR hosted the National Open Science FestivalOpens external. The 400 attendees could choose among 25 workshops, a double-afternoon Open Science Together session, and 2 plenaries, before enjoying the post-event Mingle & Meet which was generously sponsored by the Lustrum committee.
Empowering Researchers and Staff in Open Science
Erasmus University Rotterdam has taken several steps to empower its researchers and staff in adopting Open Science practices. They offer various training programs, including events, discussions, workshops, and the launch of a brand new Massive Open Online CourseOpens external (MOOC). This introductory course is aimed at researchers, educators, and professional services staff who want to learn more about Open Science. Additionally, the institution has a dedicated Open Science Advisor, Data Stewards, faculty liaison librarians and other experts across its faculties to provide guidance and support.
Balancing Privacy and Openness
Addressing concerns about data security and privacy, Schettino emphasized that Open Science doesn't compromise privacy when handled responsibly. Privacy officers provide advice to researchers on data protection, ensuring the responsible sharing of research findings while safeguarding participants and researchers.
Success Stories in Open Science
EUR also celebrates, recognizes and honors projects that exemplify the principles of Open Science through the Open and Responsible Science Awards. Notably, the university rewards projects rather than individuals, emphasizing the collaborative nature of Open Science.
In 2022, one of the awarded projects was "Improving disaster risk reduction in Transcarpathian region" (ImProDiReT). Dr. Abby Muricho Onencan said, "One of the most significant outcomes of receiving this award has been the opportunity to develop a comprehensive toolkit in the form of a book. We are thrilled to share that the toolkit is currently undergoing translation into four additional languages: Ukrainian, Romanian, Hungarian, and Russian. Our goal is to have all four translations ready for release before the end of 2023."
The call for nominations for the 2023 awards is open until October 1, 2023.
Overall, EUR’s commitment to Open Science extends beyond research practices; it aligns with societal needs, science literacy, and responsible research conduct. By fostering collaboration, transparency, and accountability, the university is leading the way in shaping a more open and impactful research landscape. Open Science is not just a buzzword at EUR; it's a transformative force driving positive change in academia and beyond.
This article was first published 19 September 2023 by Erasmus University Rotterdam.