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Driving Open Science adoption with a global framework: the Open Science Monitoring Initiative

Written by Veronique Kiermer and Iain Hrynaszkiewicz

Earlier this month the Open Science Monitoring Initiative shared a draft of Open Science monitoring principles, launching a worldwide consultation. 

We’re proud to have collaborated on the draft, drawing from our experience developing Open Science Indicators and building upon our participation alongside other nonprofit Open Science advocates, research organizations and policy-makers in a workshop hosted by UNESCO last December that initiated this effort. We are excited to see this important effort move forward in a forum that invites the participation of the broadest range of stakeholders from the scholarly community. 

Any organization that promotes Open Science, like PLOS, needs to be able to monitor the adoption of Open Science practices. Context is important. Research is a global enterprise supported by a vast network of academic institutions, service and infrastructure providers, funders, and policy-making groups. The solutions we build have to be able to address the priorities and answer the questions each of those groups are asking. So far, this has led to the emergence of a variety of monitoring solutions that are not comparable. This limits the utility of data collected in different contexts and importantly it risks creating misalignments. 

In our efforts to drive Open Science forward, we have first-hand experience of the barriers researchers face when the bodies that govern research culture and practice lack alignment. This is why the work of this group is so important: it will take a multi-stakeholder collaboration to drive context-specific but comparable monitoring solutions to support pathways to Open Science adoption for diverse communities.

A shared foundation accelerates progress for all

UNESCO’s comprehensive recommendation on Open Science is an important milestone towards a shared understanding and vision for Open Science that enables each of us to work in our own ways towards the same goal. How we implement this recommendation will also require the ability to monitor its adoption in ways that honor its principles. 

Importantly, the Open Science monitoring initiative is focusing on collaboration and consultation with a wide range of stakeholders. Despite the disparate needs or motivations an institution in Kenya, a funder in the UK, and a policy-making body in France may have for monitoring Open Science, adopting common principles will help provide a global understanding of progress. 

The more that we are able to share and learn from each other and study new aspects of the prevalence and effects of Open Science, the better-equipped we will be to see patterns which point to significant barriers for researchers, systemic challenges, structural inequities and potential biases. With a common set of principles for monitoring, we are one step closer to establishing equitable paths to Open Science. 

Open Science monitoring for better Open Science practice

When we envisioned Open Science Indicators in 2022, it was with the recognition that we could not achieve our goal of advancing Open Science adoption without knowing where we were starting from, and how effectively our experimental solutions were driving us forward.

It felt important at the time to establish our own underlying principles to guide our future development, communicate what we were trying to do as transparently as possible and to help others understand and use our tools and data responsibly. The same reasoning that animated us then informed our input into the Open Science Monitoring initiative.

The data we are gathering through OSIs gives us a better understanding of the landscape of Open Science practices today, and that helps us see where interventions and solutions could be effective–or not so effective. Since implementing OSIs, we’ve been able to look more closely at the regional differences in Open Science behaviors, as well as differences by discipline, and we’re developing a better understanding of the effect of policies and solutions on influencing these behaviors. 

For example we were able to see code-sharing rates at PLOS Computational Biology rose from 53% to 87% in the first year after implementing our mandatory code-sharing policy, signaling that authors in this community were willing to make a bolder move towards this Open Science practice. We are also tracking the impact of making it easier for authors to share preprints, and incentives that could promote better data-sharing practice and usage.

But journal policy is far from the only mechanism to change research-sharing norms. By the time a researcher is ready to share their work, many of their choices have already been made. They are influenced by their own context and circumstances: Does their national research body support sharing more components of the research? Will their institution recognize efforts to be more transparent? Is there funding and infrastructure to make it easy for them to do so? Do the solutions available fit the aims of the research itself?

We share our dataset and our findings publicly, hoping they may be helpful to others, and are always open to feedback and additional context-specific interpretations. 

Working together to build a path forward

There are numerous routes researchers can take to make their work more open. Part of what we want to achieve at PLOS is to support multiple pathways to Open Science by understanding what the academic landscape looks like and the motivations for researchers. 

We know from our own research that Open Science monitoring is a need we share with many organizations, and we have been collaborating to understand how monitoring needs align and differ between funders, institutions, and publishers. 

This collaborative work with funders and institutions, and in particular our work with the UK Reproducibility Network (UKRN) to develop open research indicator pilots for institutions, illustrates that measuring the prevalence of Open Science practices is not enough. We also need to be measuring the effects or qualities of those practices to achieve the aims of greater transparency, integrity, and inclusion which are at the core of Open Science. We believe that Open Science is better science, and effective monitoring – and rigorous meta-research – can provide more evidence for this.

A systemic challenge requires a systemic solution. Figuring out how we do that must be a multistakeholder endeavor. It has to create a feedback loop between funders, policy-makers, institutions, infrastructure providers, researchers and publishers. Importantly, the diversity of perspectives is critical not only across sectors but also across disciplines, regional and economic contexts. 

The Open Science monitoring principles are for everyone, and we need your perspective

We encourage all organizations that support Open Science, everywhere, to engage with the Open Science Monitoring Initiative’s draft principles. A robust set of principles, informed by the broadest possible range of stakeholders, will be an essential asset for responsibly measuring the successes (and, where necessary, failures and unintended consequences) of all of our efforts.

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