Open Society And Open Science: Challenges And What We Can Do

Open Society And Open Science: Challenges And What We Can Do

Introduction

For all PhD students, “Open Science” courses are very necessary and helpful. From my own experience, this course benefit me at least in the following three points:

Resources – This course has introduced abundant open science resources to the students. For example, It tells students how to use the DORA, OPENIRE, and CORE and etc., which are very useful for students’ research practices.

Principles – This course has taught students what is “open science”, and explained the main principles of “open science”, in particular, It gives some specific strategic suggestions from the perspective of doctoral students’ scientific research and practice, when preparing to publish and store their academic results. It has also taught us how to use open science tools to make more people to be engaged in our research, and get more open data to be utilized in our study.

Thinking – This course has aroused my deeper critical thinking about “science”, “academic” and “society”. In the past, I was very interested in the philosophical concept of “open society”. After taking this course, I think that “open science” is one of the most important characteristics of “open society” in the development of academic research. In this blog post, I will discuss open society and open science briefly.

Open Society

The concept of “open society” was put forward by the French philosopher Bergson(1932). He defined it as a dynamic system inclined to moral universalism. And then during WWII, The famous British Austrian scholar Karl Popper further developed this term of “open society” in his masterpiece “The open society and its enemies“(1945). He saw it as “part of a historical continuum reaching from the organic, tribal, or closed society, through the open society (marked by a critical attitude to tradition) to the abstract or depersonalized society lacking all face-to-face interaction transactions”.

In Popper’s analysis framework, there are two streams about the term “Open society”. One is from the view of political science: in the open society, individual freedom and human rights are the cornerstones, the government should allow and accept criticism from the people, the political mechanism should be transparent and flexible, as opposed to authoritarianism. The other stream is from the perspective of epistemology: Popper believes that there is no so-called “ultimate truth”, critical rationalism is the philosophical basis of scientific skepticism, everything must be kept open.

Open Science

“Open Science” can be traced back to the Enlightenment period in the 17th century, but the exact phrase for “Open Science” was created by Steve Mann in 1998, when he registered the domain names openscience.com and openscience.org. For the term “open science”, different scholars and institutions have given various definitions. Although expressed in different ways, the concepts of “openness, cooperation, and sharing” are fully permeated. According to UNESCO(2021), open science builds on 5 key pillars: open access to scientific knowledge, open science infrastructures, open science communication, open engagement of societal actors and open dialogue with other knowledge systems. Currently, open science is leveraged and utilized wildly in academic research, which includes government management, business, education, publishing and other fields.

Significance of Open Science in An Open Society

Is today’s society an open society? There is no clear answer to this question. However, it is clear that with the development of information technology and the media industry, especially the rise of the Internet since the 1980s, our society has become more and more like an “open society”. The limitations of information dissemination and storage have been broken in both space and time. In the present time, within the internet everyone can freely express their own opinions and create personal content, such as videos, under the scope of the rules. Popper’s “open society” seems to be gradually becoming a reality on the Internet Era.

However, for academia, it is still very conservative. Especially in the academic publishing industry. According to a statistics conducted by the European Universities Association (EUA), the overall expenditure by 26 European countries for academic journals was €597 million (£515 million) in 2017, but 75% of that – some €451 million – was spent on subscriptions to journals published by the “big five” : Elsevier, Springer Nature, Wiley, Taylor & Francis and the American Chemical Society (ACS). Together they accounted for 56% of articles published (Mehta.A, 2019). With the monopoly advantages in the academic publishing industry, the “big five” have formed a de facto oligarchy. For commercial interests, the “big five” have built a high wall for publishing activities and access to products, which is not in line with the concept of open science.

From where I stand, as a part of the panorama of open society, open science is an irresistible trend. The development of new technologies represented by Internet technology will ultimately affect the academic publishing ecology, which is fully illustrated by the current facts. In February 2018, the European Open Science Cloud Initiative (EOSCI) proposed a framework for open science; on July 4, 2018, the French National Academy of Sciences released the National Open Science Program; on July 17, 2018, the National Academy of Sciences of USA released the plan of ” Open science by design”.

Two of The Most Biggest Challenge For Open Science

Why does the academic publishing industry present a closed feature? In my opinion, there are mainly the following two reasons:

Firstly, the current academic evaluation system is flawed. To get better recognized, most academic scholars have to submit and publish their research papers on high impact factor (IF) score journals, which are basically monopolized by the “big five” academic publishers. While, can we say those academic workouts, such as research book chapters or conference papers, have no value? Obviously the answer is no. Numerous scholars are the fundamental and decisive force in promoting the development of open science. Only when the open science work results of these researchers are fully recognized and directly linked to their performance evaluation, more and more scholars will have the motivation to participate in the open science initiative, and the open science movement can become more and more energetic, and finally succeed in practices.

Secondly, the profit model of academic publishing is too closed. According to the well-known laws of economics: “monopolistic enterprises can obtain excess profits through their monopoly position”, those “big five” companies, for their business interests, they are raising the subscription service fees of their published products year by year, which has led to protests from many universities, research institutions and scholars. Especially for scholars, they may have to pay high fees for publishing papers and when they want to get access to the published papers, they have to pay for it again. Some funding agencies like the European Research Council (ERC) also protested it, because when people want to get access to the results of the funded research, they may be involved in the issue of secondary payments. Academic publishing companies argue that their services price hikes were due to the increasing costs of publishing and printing, but this explanation does not convince most of the people. 

In order to solve the problem above, the governments or the public sector can increase investment and promote the open scientific infrastructure, which will strengthen competition in the academic publishing industry and guide the business model of academic publishing to a benign transformation. The government can also issue relevant policies or laws to reduce the fees for certain services in the academic publishing field, or the government can subsidize academic publishing companies instead of those companies directly charging scientific research relevant entities, or the government can build up academic publishing institutions for non-profit purposes. Because in general, breaking down the barriers to knowledge and science dissemination will promote economic growth and improve the overall level of welfare eventually.

What can we do?

As an early stage researcher, more specifically, a PhD student, we will go through the whole process of academic research and academic publishing. In my opinion, for becoming an “open scientists” during our PhD study and beyond, we can draw efforts from the following 4 points:

Above all, we should strengthen our belief in the concept of “open” in today’s society. In life, we should be open and embrace new technology, new information. And in academic research, we should be confident in the open science trends and internalize it into our inner values.

Besides, we should make good use of open scientific resources and tools. When we conduct the proposed research, we should make full use of the skills learned in this course and apply them to our research work. For example, when we are looking for literature or data relevant to our research, we can refer to the open platform like Dora and etc. And when we need to collect large scale data, we can encourage more people to get engaged in our research. These practical skills will be helpful to our own research.

And as for our research work outputs, we could try to publish and upload our papers, data and relevant materials in open science platforms. If we are not clear where these platforms are, we could ask the university library for help, they provide a variety of comprehensive services. And we will also submit the doctoral dissertation here at the end, which is an open science platform in some sense. And even though we plan to submit and publish our papers in “big five” journals, we can still use the pre-print version to relevant open science platforms. Only when more and more scholars continue to enrich the content of open platforms, can these platforms truly promote the dissemination of knowledge, inspire academic debates, and promote the development of academic science.

Last but not least, we should actively spread the idea of open science. Just as the value of money is to make it flow, so is the idea of open science. We pass on the knowledge of open science to more people, and more and more people will participate in the open science initiative. And if it’s possible, we can join a professional open science working group and use practical actions to promote the development of open science.

References:

  1. Henri Bergson ([1932] 1937). Les Deux Sources de la morale et de la religion, ch. I, pp. 1–103 and ch. IV, pp. 287–343. Félix Alcan.
  2. Popper, K. R. (1945). The open society and its enemies. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
  3. “openscience.com historical whois information – who.is”. who.is.
  4. Azoulay, A. (2021). UNESCO embraces open science to shape society’s future. Nature, 593(7859), 341-341.
  5. ANGELI MEHTA (2019). 75% of European spending on scientific journals goes to ‘big five’ publishers, Chemistry World, Available online:https://www.chemistryworld.com/news/75-of-european-spending-on-scientific-journals-goes-to-big-five-publishers/4010616.article(accessed on 1st July 2021).
  6. European Commission. The European Open Science Cloud Initiative (EOSCI) 2018. Available online:https://ec.europa.eu/info/research-and-innovation/strategy/strategy-2020-2024/our-digital-future/open-science/european-open-science-cloud-eosc_en. (accessed on 1st July 2021).
  7. European Open Science Cloud. France National Open Science Plan (2018).  Available online:https://www.enseignementsup-recherche.gouv.fr/cid132531/plan-national-pour-la-science-ouverte-discours-de-frederique-vidal.html. (accessed on 1st July 2021).
  8. Mike Henry (2018), National Academies Envisions ‘Open Science by Design, American Institute of Physicals (AIP), Available online: https://www.aip.org/fyi/2018/national-academies-envisions-%E2%80%98open-science-design%E2%80%99. (accessed on 1st July 2021).
One Comments “Open Society And Open Science: Challenges And What We Can Do
  1. Eva Méndez says:

    Brilliant post!. Thank you for your contribution and your scholarly thoughts related to Poper. You deserved the “open scientist” t-shirt 😉 do not forget to wear it during your academic life.

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