Utrecht University signs Barcelona Declaration on open research information

17 Jun 2024 | Network Updates | Update from Utrecht University
These updates are republished press releases and communications from members of the Science|Business Network

Much information on research is not public. That makes it difficult for researchers to collaborate and hampers societal impact. Utrecht University wants to change that, which is why it signed the Barcelona Declaration on Open Research Information on 14 May 2024. Openness of information must become the new norm.

Review and decision processes in academics are often based on closed information on research, which is mostly managed by commercial parties which impose strict limitations on its use. Because of this, research evaluations are often incomplete and not transparent. This closedness has an effect on the way in which academia serves society, the careers of researchers and the future of research organisations. For instance, it is very difficult to critically examine analyses and indicators, and to have an informed debate on their strengths and weaknesses. With this, the basic standards for accountability in research are not met and academic independence is at risk. Known examples of online databases providing closed research information, which are used by Utrecht University as well, are Web of Science and Scopus. These are expensive, commercial databases with restrictions for use. You cannot simply share the content and data on publications. For this data, think along the lines of metadata such as titles, summaries, authors or funders of research.

Availability of information must fundamentally change

The Barcelona Declaration on Open Research Information calls upon providers of closed research information to make this information public by means of a statement. But it also calls upon users to only use open research information. More than twenty-five experts from various organisations involved in academic research have drafted this declaration. They believe the availability of information should be fundamentally changed and that openness should become the new norm. Utrecht University has signed this declaration now too. With it, UU commits to openness as the standard in working with service providers and systems which support and enable openness. But also to supporting the sustainability of infrastructures for open research information and collective action to accelerate the transition towards openness.

The move towards openness is desired

The declaration links up with the Open Science goal of Utrecht University. It contributes to the innovation of Recognition and Rewards, but also to worldwide academic collaboration and societal impact. An example of this is that open metadata makes it easier for a faculty, department or library to make academically supported and inclusive choices in publications. The change set in motion by the Barcelona Declaration makes research information more accessible, which enables research evaluations and decisions on academic policy being made based on transparent evidence. Parties with equal access collaborate better, can plan better and can carry out better evaluations. Utrecht University sees the signing of the Declaration as an amplification of the mutual signal that the step towards openness is desired. If metadata of research is openly available, commercial parties can focus on the tailored provision of supplemental services. Utrecht University also hopes parties which want to focus more on providing or supporting infrastructure for open research information will now feel empowered to further develop this.

University Library and Chief Open Science make the next move

The Executive Board has given the University Library and the Chief Open Science the assignment to embed the starting point of the Declaration in the Open Science agenda of Utrecht University. In the upcoming summer, the University Library will organise a workshop in which the possibilities of OpenAlex, one of the databases with fully open research information, are explored. This workshop will be announced in the Events Schedule.

This article was first published on 13 June by Utrecht University.

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