Brief thoughts and summary about the 2nd CRUP/CRUE Open Science Seminar

This workshop has taken me back a few years when I left the world of industry to become a university employee for research projects and later to become a PhD student.

Then, I was sadly surprised to find out that science was not already open. As it was kindly pointed out during the workshop, as well as in the literature that can be found, one of the main reasons is to try to compare scientific production with industrial production and thus to evaluate researchers and workers of any company similarly.  This is why the subject of the workshop («Career Assessment in the transition to Open Science») was particularly interesting.

From a practical and benevolent position, the workshop manifests something really disturbing, in my opinion:  

Conceptualization of science has derived for the scientific community from something which it is understood as the way to achieve knowledge for the social benefit and the posterior need to transmit this knowledge to continue advancing together, to need «to push the transition to Open Science in the Spanish and Portuguese Universities» (I quote from the presentation of the workshop ). How have we degraded the main academic institution of the system, such as the university, to the point of needing a manual to apply open science? This fact, unfortunately, obvious to the most junior people in the world of research, is surprisingly weird to the average citizen (not related to academia) who unfortunately looks at science from the distance.

So much so, that the first presentation of the 2nd CRUP/CRUE Open Science Seminar, was a paradigmatic example of good practices to be able to evaluate scientific staff within the framework of open science.

Rianne Letschert, president of the University of Maastricht, presented the «formula for success» through a position paper named «Room for everyone’s talent; towards a new balance in the recognition and rewards of academics», as result of the work of the 14 Dutch universities and the country’s main research institutions.

Without a doubt, the workshop only showed the tip of the iceberg of this work employing some guidelines, but given that the ideas presented are not particularly novel or revolutionary, in my opinion, the effort made by the Dutch colleagues leaves us with the same good and bad news as the main conclusion: Applying a correct evaluation to researchers within the framework of open science, means applying common sense.

This seems quite complicated, given that an activity that pretends to be the source of knowledge for the industry, it is attempted to be assessed using indicators adapted and built for the industry.

In my opinion, through the workshop, it is possible to find a common thread of contradictions between what seems obvious that should be applied to have a proper evaluation system and the current reality.  

While Rianne Letschert ended her presentation with a series of «silver linings» taken from the first months of the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic that can serve to accelerate the process of adaptation to open science and a «Let’s move together!»; the second presentation of the day by Bregt Saene showed quantitatively the reason why the system seems to be stuck and that gives rise to the aforementioned workshop subject: European researchers value more than anything else the publications that allow them to obtain the «trophies» that can be shown to the administration’s evaluators. In my view, it is quite striking that the project officer of the association responsible for representing a large number of Europe universities will only be making a series of recommendations (far from musts) to change the evaluation model, while the great proposal of the day came from a national initiative that responds to a very specific context such as the Dutch one and on top of that claims Let’s move together! 

One of the main slogans if not the main one of Rianne Letschert during the morning was «What is the secret of the Dutch approach?», What about the money? I would say. How different is the Dutch government’s investment from the Portuguese or Spanish among others? We really need science to be completely open and global but if we want to «Let’s move together», shouldn’t we analyse the Bregt Saene graphs by region and then launch a more realistic report/proposal/position paper instead of presenting a national plan as a paradigmatic example? Most probably, the concern about publication-related indicators is much greater among Spanish researchers than among those from Northern Europe.

In this context, Spain aligns itself with the European recommendations and kind of sponsors the «Researchers Careers’ Assessment OS Matrix» as a solution to the evaluation problems as the third workshop presentation by Cecilia Cabello showed. It would be necessary to take some time to analyse this matrix but it reminds me of one of the classic «One-size-fits-all» solutions of the EU that tries to satisfy both those who are in favour of a change of paradigm and those who are not, remaining a mere administrative justification over the years. So while the Netherlands takes a proactive initiative (with the aforementioned cons ), it seems that Spain is once again in practical inaction. In my opinion, this inaction masked by the annoying bureaucracy was clear during the Mercedes Siles talk, director of the National Agency for Quality Assessment and Accreditation of Spain (ANECA). The issue is tricky and requires a thorough treatment but it is clear that the ANECA system does not work when, among other examples, prestigious Spanish researchers with a distinguished career abroad cannot obtain the certification that will allow them to return to their country with a stable job. On a positive note, it seems that the scheme presented by Luis Neves of the University of Coimbra for Portugal is based on common sense and not on administrative cobblestones. Portugal has significantly increased its investment in science in recent years and, unlike Spain, seems to be able to define the direction of its science system with clear ideas 

#IamAnOpenScientistBecause science does not exits if is not open

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