First Open Science Monitor survey: Researchers ready for Open Science, now time for action

Researchers want to act in the spirit of Open Science, but in many fields sharing articles and data, working and being evaluated as a team, and public engagement are still far from being standard practice. That is the result of the first annual Open Science Monitor survey conducted among employees of Utrecht University and UMC Utrecht, by a multi-disciplinary team of researchers and the Open Science Programme1.

The monitor asked researchers about their attitudes towards the principles of open science. Are they open to it? Do they consider it important for their own field of research? And perhaps more importantly: do scientists actually practise Open Science in their research? Or do they face obstacles in doing so? A total about 400 researchers from Utrecht University and UMC Utrecht participated in the Open Science Monitor, representing 7% of the academic staff2. The survey provides a preliminary view into the current state of affairs.

These data are from spring 2020. Due to the covid pandemic, processing of the data and publication of the report was delayed. Since then, however, many steps have been taken in Open Science. Therefore, the next poll will already take place in early 2022. 

The vast majority of respondents stated that they understand how a more open, transparent approach to scientific research can increase the quality of research. Researchers from virtually every field stated that they consider open access publishing to be an important way to enhance the quality and impact of their research, and therefore also publish via open access. Many researchers recognise the importance of sharing data and code and the use and development of open software. At the same time, a significant percentage3 stated that they had never actually done so.

With regard to team science, an important aspect of changing how scientists are recognised and rewarded, the vast majority indicated that they recognise the importance of conducting research as part of a team. Nevertheless, a quarter of the respondents had never conducted research as part of a team. Most respondents also consider involving societal partners and citizens in their research as important, but they rarely get around to actually making that part of their research practise.

These results indicate that researchers acknowledge the importance of open science, but putting it into practise remains a hurdle. Heavy workloads and lack of appreciation for open science seem to present major obstacles to its implementation, because although departments consider public engagement and team science to be important, in researchers’ experience acting according to those principles is not always encouraged or facilitated. Moreover, researchers who want to publish data sets openly or wish to use open code or software do not always know where to turn for help.

The results of the survey will be elaborated in more detail over the coming weeks. In order to obtain more insight into the underlying motivations and practises, additional interviews will also be conducted among researchers from a variety of fields. The Monitor was conducted as part of a long-term research project, and a second survey will be conducted at the end of the current academic year.

1. Sander Thomaes (FSW, OSP member), Joost de Laat (REBO, OSP member), Ruth van Veelen (FSW), Judith de Haan (OSP), Daniël Hemert (Stud. Ass.) and Loek Brinkman (UMCU, OSCU)

2. De response rate of 7% was calculated based on the number of UU respondents included in the analysis in relation to the total number of academic staff at Utrecht University. UMC Utrecht was not included in this calculation, as staff numbers are calculated using a different method. The response rate is lower than expected, but it is in line with comparable surveys. The lower response rate may be due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the fact that the survey had to be taken offline temporarily due to uncertainty about requesting demographic data.

3. 31% of the respondents stated that they had never shared research data, and 53% stated that they had never shared the code for analyses, etc.