Helping Move to Open

Thursday, March 31, 2016

We in the open access/science community mean well, but we are guilty of the same sin for which we accuse those who are not open—a closed mindset. The conversation around open access itself is very closed by being non-inclusive. There is an us-vs-them mentality wherein those who are not open are somehow misinformed, inferior. The fact is, the scientists who are not yet practicing open science are rarely present at the table where such discussions are happening. When was the last time you went to an open summit and had someone explain why they are not open? The fact is, everything is rah-rah-rah, preaching to the converted.

To promote open, we have to enumerate the ways in which content can be closed, and understand why creators of content are or may want to remain closed. Instead of only clamoring for science to be open, we have to reach out to those who are not yet open and understand their position. If they have not heard of the open movement, we need to tell them about it. If they don’t know how open practices can help them, we need to appraise them of the benefits. If they are unable to practice open science because of the lack of infrastructure, we need to help them create such an infrastructure. If they are penalized by the system for practicing open science, or are rewarded for supporting closed ones, we need to change the system, hopefully with their help.

Below are a few tips to help us in this quest. Next time we initiate a conversation about open science, we have to include scientists who are not yet open, and we have to engage them with the following questions:

  1. Have you heard of open science? If not, let me tell you about it.
  2. Do you know how open science can benefit you?
  3. Are you aware of the open tools available to help you in your scientific studies? Here are the tools that already exist to allow you to conduct your scientific studies openly. If you don’t find something that suits your needs precisely, you can most likely adapt an existing one or create one for yourself using existing tools.
  4. Is there a legal or funding requirement (federal, local, other) to make available openly and freely at least the findings if not everything resulting from the funding you are receiving?
  5. Does your institution support you if you want to practice open science? Have you ever met with the intellectual property office of your institution?
  6. Does your department/discipline expect you to publish in certain journals that may be closed? Are their open journals available in your field, and are they viewed as being good?
  7. Does your department/discipline have any mechanism for recognizing your work on the basis of whether or not it is open?

There may be more such questions depending on the context. The important thing to realize is that we have to not just talk the talk, but also help others walk the walk. We have to not just expect them to move to open but we have to help them move to open.