18 December 2018

Open science changes the academic world

Developments in 2018 that will influence science

According to the present Dutch coalition agreement (2017-2021) open science will become the standard in scientific research. The strategic plan of Utrecht University also includes the ambition to be in the forefront of open science. But what is open science again and wat happened in 2018, that is to change the landscape of academic research in 2019 forever?

What is open science?

Open science is based on the principle that scientists and scholars share their research process and research results as openly as possible, making them available to everyone. This way scientists create transparency and strengthen the scientific and social impact of academic research. 

The open science movement began among the researchers themselves. They are aiming at an open science model based on the idea that society will in this way benefit the most from research. On the other hand, open science more and more often becomes a condition that scientists are obliged to meet. For instance, research funders may set demands regarding the publication form or the open sharing of research data.

There is no doubt that moving towards more open forms of science is a clear trend. What questions were discussed in 2018? We have singled out five major developments:

Open Science Programme & Utrecht University Platform

In September 2018 the Executive Board approved the start of the Open Science Programme of Utrecht University. The UU Open Science Programme focuses on five topics:

  • Open access
  • FAIR & open data
  • Open software
  • Outreach and public engagement
  • Rewards and incentives

To find out more about the scope and targets of the programme, please read the most recent version of the Open Science Programme.

All faculty deans view open science as a current theme and support the plan. The Open Science Programme is directed by an Open Science Platform. Frank Miedema is chair of this platform. Anja Smit will act as secretary. Their initial focus will be on further structuring the programme and setting the course of the programme heading for 2021.


As of 1 January 2020 all publicly funded scientific articles must be published Open Access. This is the heart of Plan S that cOAlition S, an international group of research funders, including the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) announced in September 2018. This plan speeds up open access publications, bringing the free accessibility of scientific research results a step closer.

Plan S led to a discussion among columnists. It started with a column by biochemist and emeritus professor Martijn Katan in the Dutch newspaper NRC in which he questioned open access journals and their quality. Others responded, for instance Frank Miedema in DUB, the Utrecht University news site.

As a result of the publication of an implementation guideline for Plan S, with the explicit request for feedback, the University Library organized a discussion meeting on 17 December. In this meeting Plan S and its implementation were discussed. Researchers expressed their concerns:

Does Plan S prevent me from publishing where I want?
What if excessive costs are demanded for publishing a paper?

This useful meeting gave researchers a platform from which they can organize their feedback on cOAlition S. Have a look at the slides of the discussion meeting.

Open Science Community Utrecht

In 2018 the Open Science Community Utrecht (OSCU) took flight. This community of Utrecht University staff and students wants to learn from each other and share information on the practice of open science. Topics for discussion are sharing data and code, open access publishing and publishing benchmarks.

In 2018 Open Science Community Utrecht published a series of podcasts under the title The Road to Open Science. In these podcasts perspectives, experiences and initiatives of researchers from several disciplines are discussed.

Following the Open Science Community Utrecht similar initiatives have been launched in Leiden and Eindhoven and maybe there are more to come.

New ways of rating and rewarding

A major condition for the transition to open science is a new way of rating and rewarding research. The current evaluation systems do not promote scholarly work enough according to the open science standards. This is one of the focal points of the Open Science Programme of Utrecht University:

The system of rewarding and the incentives available is seen by researchers and policy makers alike as the most important in effecting the change towards open science.

Changes in the evaluation criteria of research form a complex process because they are deeply rooted in the academic world. In 2018 steps were taken towards new forms of rating.

The National Platform Open Science has drawn up recommendations for acknowledging and rewarding researchers. The recommendations aim at open science taking up an explicit place in the protocols for research evaluation (SEP). These recommendations will be considered by the VSNU (Association of Universities in the Netherlands), NWO (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research), NFU (Netherlands Federation of University Medical Centres) and ZonMw (Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development)  in the further development of the protocols for research evaluation.

The VSNU, NWO, NFU and ZonMw announced a joint effort to give an impulse to new approaches for recognizing  and rewarding scientists. According to these institutions, these changes are not only instrumental in the development of talent, in the advancement of the quality and impact of both teaching and research, but also in the promotion of knowledge institutions as employers.

Expansion of Research Data Management (RDM) Support

In 2018 the University Library invested in the preparations for expanding the services under the flag of Research Data Management (RDM) Support. The purpose of these services is to help researchers comply to the rules and guidelines imposed by funders and laws. Also to make their research results publicly accessible so that they may contribute to scientific and societal developments.

Not only the website of RDM was renewed completely in 2018, also the online training Learn to write your Data Management Plan was put into use.

In addition, the team of data managers and data consultants was expanded. These data managers support scientists in making their research data available in a FAIR way: Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable.