Researchers positive about open science, but there are still obstacles
Eighty-seven percent of all researchers have a (very) positive attitude about open science. Young scientists are even more enthusiastic with a percentage of 94 percent. But researchers are still coming across obstacles when it comes to practical implementation. This has emerged from a poll commissioned by NWO among researchers from all disciplines.
The aim and the reality in everyday practice are most closely aligned when it comes to the open access publication of research results. Ninety-five percent of the researchers surveyed consider this to be (very) important, while 83 percent actually publish their research openly, often or always. When it comes to sharing data, there is still a gap between intention and reality. Ninety-three percent of the researchers surveyed say they consider this (very) important, but only 56 percent say they actually do it in practice. The lack of infrastructure, clear instructions and guidelines are mentioned as obstacles (44 percent and 47 percent), but the lack of financial resources (72 percent) scores highest.
Asked about the importance of open science, respondents gave ethical aspects a high score. Open science leads to more transparency and therefore to science that is more trustworthy and reliable (90 percent). Equally important, researchers believe that open science leads to more equality when it comes to accessing scientific results (regardless of economic standing or institutional affiliation). Also important is the fact that research is often publicly funded and therefore should be freely available to anyone who is interested in it (87 percent). Many researchers believe that open science quite simply benefits science itself: sharing data, software and methods results in more efficient scientific practices.
"There's clearly been a change in attitude in recent years towards open science, which is good news," says Caroline Visser, responsible for open science on NWO's Executive Board. But she has also noticed that there are still obstacles that need to be overcome. "The lack of financial resources is the main obstacle for researchers to practice open science. A better infrastructure, clear instructions and more time would also help to increase the practice of open science. NWO gave open science a boost earlier this year by setting up local Digital Competence Centres (DCCs), where researchers can go with any questions related to data and software. Clearly, there is a real need for that."
Recognition and rewards
A common objection to open science is that it does not play a significant role in the evaluation of researchers. Indeed, uncertainty about whether open science will be recognized and rewarded in their career development is a real obstacle for 30 percent of researchers. And for younger researchers, these percentages are even higher (36 percent and 37 percent). Not surprisingly, when asked what NWO can do to encourage open science, recognizing and rewarding open science scored high. Sixty-four percent of researchers feel that open science is not sufficiently recognized and rewarded.
"We are pleased to see how much broad support the open science movement is receiving from the field," Visser says. "The poll shows that researchers also overwhelmingly recognize the benefits of making scientific knowledge public and accessible. When it comes to practical support and recognizing and rewarding, there is still work to be done. We are working closely with the universities and medical centers in the national recognition and rewards program. And NWO has the Open Science Fund, which aims to financially support innovative open science projects."
Room for improvement
The poll also asked researchers what they think about traditional objections to open science. For example, 13 percent (totally) agree with the statement that 'open science is dangerous and could potentially lead to misuse," and 11 percent believe it harms quality. Eight percent support the statement that it is unfair that other researchers can benefit from someone else's research. But the statement that science should not be open because the general public has too little understanding of science anyway finds little support. Six percent of those surveyed agree with that statement. Among humanities researchers, the statement finds no support at all.
There is also room for improvement when it comes to involving the public in science. Eighty-seven percent consider public involvement important, but only 54 percent involve the public regularly or always in practice. When it comes to practicing citizen science, there is still a gap between intention and reality as well. About two-thirds of those surveyed consider it (very) important, but less than one-third practice it.