A Life Changing 2nd CRUP-CRUE Open Science Seminar

The past July 3rd was held the 2nd CRUP-CRUE Open Science Seminar via Zoom, where a group of important personalities from several European institutions talked and interchanged ideas and experiences on Open Science. The main objective of the Seminar was to analyse the change needed in career assessment from an Open Science point of view, specially when this assessment is related to young researchers, because Open Science (which is not only Open Access related) is a paradigm shift as we do and understand science.

Th first and main talk was given by PhD. Rianne Letschert, Rector of Maastricht University. Her presentation was titled “Room for everyone’s talent: Toward a new balance in the recognition and rewards of academics”. One of the objectives of PhD. R. Letschert’s talk was to show and explain the Dutch experience in the modernising the system of recognition and rewards in the academic life. Her point of view was quite interesting, because we were able to know from first person the changes done in the Netherlands in order to shift the “old science paradigm”.

Professor Letschert asks, and answer, two important questions regarding the change needed with Open Science in sight: Why do we need such a change? What do we need a change? First, there is a need for a change because we need that Academia do not separate from society, but that higher education institutions keep very close to social life. This point will ensure that society keeps supporting the academic research and maintains in high value the opinion of academics. Moreover, we need to ensure that universities and research institutes are healthy work environments, where the new scientist feel comfortable and can do “healthy” science, giving away the high levels of stress present in nowadays scientific life. But, specially, there is a high need of a change because there is a huge gap between what scientist aim and what are rewarded.

Other important point treated by Professor Letschert was the need to enable and diversify career paths, because nowadays the excellence of university professors and researchers is (almost) only measured in terms of research excellence, and this uses the quality of publications and amount of grants the main metrics to measure scientific success. Then, another aspect of academic life has less importance in metrics, as education or leadership. So, there is very important to change the way we measure success, in order to promote por complete scientist. Also, we need to promote a better balance between individual and team performances in research, then we can inspire more a “team science”. Moreover, metrics must incentivise the quality of scientific work instead of quantity, and also must measure the contribution to solve societal changes. In this part a personal concern grows:  What about “pure” science, particularly Mathematics? It is a popular myth that mathematics is outside the real world, where “the Queen of Science” has no importance and it is quite separated from society. This myth has a little bit of truth, because some parts of mathematics looks more theology than “real” science, as Category Theory or Riemannian Geometry. But it is well known that applications of mathematical theories are not immediate, but sometimes needs several years to find the way into “real” life. Examples of those facts are Lobachevsky’s Geometry, which helps to explain Einstein’s Relativity Theory, or Matrix Analysis that gain huge importance with the arrival of Big Data. So, how can be measured the importance of “pure” mathematical research, specially with respect to other “applied” mathematical researches, because we cannot rely inly on applied mathematics, because there must exist something “pure” to be applied.

So, a way to accomplish the paradigm shift needed in higher education institutions is to start a change in the way we evaluate the scientific success. We need to point out that this is a huge change, because is a complete change of mentality, not only a change of the rules of the game. In order to do that, there must exist a dialogue within the academia, because this shift cannot be imposed. Perhaps the first step is to share good practices and experiences, in order to learn from the errors, as the good scientist do. Also, Professor Letschert pointed out how COVID19 crisis show us the urgency of the change, specially because these isolation months makes change the way we teach and evaluate the work of the students.

The second talk was given by Bregt Saenen, Policy and Project Officer of the European University Association (EUA) and Cecilia Cabello, Chair of the European Research Area and Innovation Committee Standing Working Group on Human Resources. In the first part, Professor Saenen explain the results of a study done by the EUA last year, where the Academic Career Assessment was under observation. Why such study was done? Because the assessment of career development cannot go separated from the zeitgeist, so incentives and rewards should reflect the shifting scenario in science. Also, the researchers must be an active part of the transition to Open Science, this cannot be done only from the top. Also, it is important, as Rector Letschert pointed out before, that we must restore the parity of respect for learning and teaching, promoting a broader range of academic activities. Two results were particularly interesting, one was the high importance that academic institutions give to publishing results, when other activities related to Open Science are underrated, specially mentoring activities are very underrated in terms of evaluation of academics. So, how do we expect to have good young researches if the older researchers do not have incentives to grow up the new generations? The second part of the talk was related to facilitate the free mobility of researches of specialist in the European environment, and the development of attractive research careers. I think that this point is very important, because many PhD in mathematics abandon the academic life to find jobs in the industry, giving away the possibility of developing a successful scientific life.

#IamAnOpenScientistBecause I believe that knowledge is a human right.

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