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Though Arguments for Open Science are Aplenty, Institutional Barriers to Its Implementation Remain

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Bits & Beers: Crazy inventions that might change the world, the Danish Museum of Science and Technology, Denmark, September 9, 2016 | © Courtesy of Idemo Lab.

As a latest Montreal-based initiative in neuroscience and the European “Horizon 2020” program show, despite efforts promoting it, Open Science continues to be exposed to budgeting and resources shortfalls.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.

As Giusppe Valiate reports, from 2016, based at Canada’s McGill University, the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (MNIH) has been applying Open Science principles to its artificial intelligence research. As part of implementing Open Access in various fields of scientific inquiry, Open Science does not suffer from a lack of definitions, schools of thoughts or academic articles proffering arguments in its favor as Benedikt Fecher and Sascha Friesike discuss in detail in their book chapter published in 2014. Perhaps due to the heteroclite nature of this phenomenon, as Open Science can refer to its technological infrastructure, knowledge creation accessibility, alternative impact metrics, knowledge access democratization, and collaborative research practices, its application in the research and scientific community continues to be divergent. Moreover, as far as academic journals are concerned, this term largely refers to Open Access.

Thus, what the MNIH initiative primarily boils down to is making its empirical, clinical and research data, such as brain imaging, biological sample and cellular data, available in Open Access. This contribution to Open Science is aimed at promoting drug discovery and development, e.g., via the facilitation of medicine tests, as part of the drive to openly share research data. At the same time, given that this field of research demands large-scale data sets, technical infrastructure for their storage and corresponding financial resources, this Open Science project also seeks to encourage a transition to Open Access, as an effort to cut costs. Similarly, Canadian researchers and scholars express increasing resistance to subscription-based journals of large publishers, such as by refusing to review their manuscripts and creating rival Open Access journals, e.g., the Journal of Machine Learning Research.

Though in Canada journal subscriptions can constitute as far as 75% of library budgets, the transition to Open Science is not likely to immediately bring savings to universities, as long-term financial support for Open Access can be elusive, especially in exact and medical sciences with large-scale infrastructure expenses, such as CAN 90 million over the course of seven years, of which only 50% has been secured, that the MNIH needs to fully implement its Open Science ambitions. Furthermore, as Lionel Maurel indicates, a consequential implementation of Open Science principles can put into danger the financial returns of universities and research institutes from the scientific patents they generate. Whereas only a small fraction of patents prove sources of economic returns for academic institution, whether the free accessibility of research data, results and output is compatible with patent commercialization remains to be demonstrated, even though the Danish University of Aarhus has recently launched an Open Science initiative of its own, while forgoing patent rights. Likewise, while the European Commission has been seeking to promote Open Science via making cloud-based data storage and sharing services available since April 2016, this pilot initiative involves over 50 research laboratories and demands significant labor, expertise and financial inputs, which can be in short supply.

Thus, though Open Science has long been advocated for, its implementation continues to meet with organizational and financial barriers.

By Pablo Markin

Featured Image Credits: Bits & Beers: Crazy inventions that might change the world, the Danish Museum of Science and Technology, Denmark, September 9, 2016 | © Courtesy of Idemo Lab.

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