While significant progress has been made in providing open access to scientific research, a range of challenges — including the economics of scientific publication and cultural barriers in the research enterprise — must be overcome to further advance the openness of science, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The report recommends coordinated action from the academic community and other research stakeholders, and the use of an “open science by design” framework to foster openness throughout the research process.
Open science aims to ensure the free availability of scholarly publications, the data that result from research, and the methodologies, including code or algorithms, that were used to generate those data. The National Academies were asked to provide guidance to the research community as it builds strategies for achieving open science.
Despite significant progress, today’s science is not completely open. Sharing data, code, and other research products is becoming more common, but it is still not routinely done across all disciplines. And most scientific articles are only available on a subscription basis.
Another challenge is that open publication — making research articles available at no charge — conflicts with the subscription-based mode of scientific journal distribution used by both for-profit and nonprofit traditional publishers, the report says. For example, many scientific societies generate surpluses through their publishing activities that support their professional ecosystems, and some would be severely challenged by certain approaches to implementing open publication. At the same time, research institutions are having difficulty absorbing the steady increases in subscription rates in recent years.
The future evolution of research dissemination should be shaped by the changing needs of researchers and the broader enterprise, including the need to ensure openness, the report says. Professional societies should work to transition from current publication strategies to new ones that foster open science by design. Journal editors should work with publishers to transition from current business models to new ones that foster open science by design. And research funders should explore innovative ways to support these transitions.
A Framework for Open Science by Design
The report’s recommended “open science by design” framework envisions principles and practices and that should occur at each stage of the research process. For example, at the beginning or “provocation” phase of the research process, researchers have immediate access to the most recent publications and research results, free of charge; they use the latest database and text mining tools to explore these sources, identify concepts embedded in the research, and identify where novel contributions can be made; and they have robust collaborative tools to network with colleagues. Principles and practices are also outlined for subsequent phases of research — ideation, knowledge generation, validation, dissemination, and preservation.
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