Open science and Societal Impact – Highlights from the AESIS conference

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Open science and Societal Impact – Highlights from the AESIS conference

On the 24th and 25th of April, the AESIS Network held an online conference on Open science and Societal Impact. The conference brought together stakeholders from across the Impact and Open science landscape, including research managers, librarians, funders, policymakers, publishers, academics and more. Ellie Cox and Frances Palmer were delighted to be able to attend this engaging and insightful event on behalf of Research Consulting.

In this post, Ellie and Frances share a summary of the three most prevalent topics that emerged from the conference.

Science as a global ‘public good’

One of the strongest messages to come through the conference was the need to see science as a global ‘public good’. Given that most science is funded through the public purse, allowing all people to access research findings is key to ensuring a transparent, equitable and fair system for all.

Within this context of science as a public good, Arianna Becerril-Garcia, Executive Director and Co-founder of the Network of Scientific Journals from Latin America and the Caribbean, showcased Redalyc, a digital library of Open Access journals. Arianna spoke about how open access platforms can be used to support the increasing diversity of scholarly outputs, representing different languages and addressing local issues. Similarly, Kathleen Shearer, Executive Director of COAR, gave a talk focused on the efforts of the Confederation of Open Access Repositories, reiterating the importance of sharing publicly available research in local languages to ensure the greater impact of research.

Finally, Toby Smith, Senior Vice President for Government Relations and Public Policy at the Association of American Universities, Joy Owango, Co-founder of TCC Africa, and Maria Pawlowska, founder of Visnea, discussed regional strengths and difficulties when it came to open science. It was recognised that while Europe has led the way in the Global North regarding open science, there is a need to learn from other communities and ensure that underrepresented communities, such as those in Africa and indigenous groups, each have a say in the development of open Science. Ensuring a global conversation on how open science should look and operate is key to a transparent, fair and accessible system.

Creating a research environment conducive to open science

Another recurring theme of the conference was the need to incentivise, recognise and reward open science practices.

At the institutional level, Michael Dougherty, Professor and Chair of Psychology, highlighted how the Psychology department at the University of Maryland had changed how they encouraged their researchers to engage with open science practices through rewards, incentives and assessment. Paul Boselie, Chief Open Science and Professor at Utrecht University spoke similarly of university level policies to support open science practices and highlighted how these may be monitored to ensure the university stays on track.

More broadly, Rebecca Lawrence, Managing Director at F1000, focused on how open science can safeguard research integrity and increase trust in the research process and outputs. She further emphasised the importance of incentivising positive behaviour in academics to tackle issues including the rise in paper mills, data manipulation and misuse of AI, all of which have been exacerbated by the ‘publish or perish’ culture.

Emily Choynowski, Chief Academic Officer, Knowledge E and Director of Operations at FORM, highlighted the Forum for Open Research in MENA, which supports the advancement of open science practices across the Arab region through the facilitation of actionable insights and the development of practical policies. This included the recent development of an open science Arabic-English glossary and an open science journal for the region.

The beginning of a journey

Finally, speakers discussed how institutions and public bodies can enable open science practices and their monitoring to encourage uptake.

One talk that touched on the topic was delivered by Ana Peršic, Programme Specialist for Science Technology and Innovation Policies and Open Science at UNESCO, who spoke about the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science, which represents the first international framework for open science policy and practice. Ana argued that science is a human right and that everyone has the right to freely share in scientific advancement and its benefits. In particular, Ana made the case that Open science can help achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, by building trust in science and supporting evidence-based policymaking.

Ioanna Grypari, Technical Project Manager at OpenAIRE, spoke about her work on PathOS, a project aiming to collect evidence of the effect of Open science, its impacts and barriers to uptake. Using a data driven, AI-assisted approach, they are uncovering how Open science has changed the world. Current findings have shown that Open science has had an impact in the areas of citizen science and open access.

The AESIS conference made it clear that while significant progress has been made, the journey towards fully Open science is still in its early stages. As we move forward, the principles discussed at the conference will undoubtedly play a crucial role in shaping the future of scientific research and its impact on society. Following our great experience, we are excited to attend the next AESIS conference regarding the societal impacts of scientific research on 26th-28th of June in Dublin, Ireland, and we encourage others who wish to engage in insightful and inspiring discussions, to do so as well.

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