1. Open science, an answer to many problems in science
There is no single official definition of open science. It includes, clearly, open access (the ability to access and read scientific publications without having to pay for them, accepting that scientific knowledge is a universal right), but also encompasses much more: a much more transparent code of ethics on how research is shared and judged; overhauling criteria on what should be highlighted and valued; more openness toward society so that the people can share their interests and participate in the process.
"Science today has many problems," summed up Frank Miedema, dean at University Medical Center Utrecht, in the Netherlands. There's the issue of reproducibility: "Of the 53 most revolutionary papers on cancer, only six (11%) could be reproduced with the same results." Or the mechanism through which scientists build their reputation, which can be summed up as 'publish or perish' and implies that "quality and relevance are less important than quantity, which prioritizes low-risk, short-term research." There's even a problem with the processes used to judge the work, known as peer review, which for Miedema involves "judging and sentencing years of work in just 15 minutes." And, to make it worse, it is often not done by the head researcher, but by "a postdoc or even PhD student, because there's just no time."
Plus, "biomedical research is highly self-referential," says Miedema. "In general, what really matters is publications, not whether you are truly serving the patients: society is excluded from the credibility cycle in science." So, open science refers to and takes into account the audience being addressed: "society in general or just science colleagues?"
"Imagine a leukemia patient who has been treated with everything available to us: chemotherapy, bone-marrow transplant… In the end, we send them home, possibly with 30% of their energy and a severe effect on their libido. When the patient complains, we say it isn't important: yes, okay, but the tumor is gone. To which they reply: fine, but I'm still here," explained Miedema. "We have to take patients into account in order to address their needs."
With this background, the Head of Open Science Policy for the European Commission René von Schomberg presented some of the initiatives the European Union (EU) is promoting to foster open science. These include launching an open-access publishing platform and requiring any research that receives European funds to publish openly. However, assuming the agenda should be holistic, it also includes aspects of Responsible Research Innovation, which takes into account the interests of society, as well as studying and introducing new metrics, new ways of assessing science beyond a paper's citations and the impact factor of the journals where it is published.
Miedema wondered whether scientists are looking for "a cure or a career." Open science should help make both things possible. Assuming there is a problem, we have to talk about the hurdles and possible solutions.