Optimising the potential of Open Science to spur innovation in Europe

Doris Retfalvi
Mar 15, 2016 · 5 min read

Sue Montgomery looks at how efforts to share research data have been progressing and finds out what needs to happen next, as well as canvassing experts for their perspectives on the future of Open Science

iStock.com/FrankRamspott

The call for Open Science is accompanied by a promise to spur innovation beyond what’s possible in the siloes of science and technology today. However, this urgency to open up the innovation landscape in the name of progress is nothing new. In 2011, physicist-turned-writer Michael Nielsen provided a highly popular presentation at TEDxWaterloo, titled, ‘Open Science Now!’ The description dates the talk to the available technology at the time: ‘What if every scientist could share their data as easily as they tweet about their lunch? Michael Nielson calls for scientists to embrace new tools for collaboration that will enable discoveries to happen at the speed of Twitter.’

How Open Science is gaining momentum

Fast forward to today, when advances in technology now enable both an explosion of data — and the ability to share it effectively — beyond what Nielsen could have possibly imagined when he stepped onto that TEDx stage. Throughout the world, Open Science initiatives are gaining momentum due to capabilities created by the digitisation of science. The European Commission (EC) is one such entity that’s deepening its commitment to making the most of Open Science to spur innovation in Europe. In June 2015, the Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Carlos Moedas, defined three strategic priorities:

  • Open Innovation
  • Open Science
  • Openness to the World

As defined by the EC, ‘Open Science describes the ongoing transitions in the way research is performed, researchers collaborate, knowledge is shared, and science is organised. It is enabled by digital technologies, and driven by:

  • the enormous growth of data
  • the globalisation and enlargement of the scientific community to new actors (for example, citizen science)
  • the need to address societal challenges.’

The EC further describes how the resulting dynamic will affect both research organisations, and the manner in which scientific results are disseminated and assessed. It describes some of the impact of Open Science as being reflected in:

  • ‘The rise of new scientific disciplines
  • Innovative pathways in publishing (including a substantial rise of open access journals)
  • New scientific reputation systems
  • Changes in the way the quality and impact of research are evaluated.’

Expert insight on Open Science

To gain further insight, I contacted a few of the experts highlighted in the TEDx video including Dr Jean-Claude Burgelman, Head of the ICT unit at the EC’s Directorate General Joint Research Centre. When I asked for his perspectives on Open Science, he provided the following insights:

‘Open Science is to science what Web 2.0 was to social and economic transactions: allowing end users to be producers of ideas, relations and services and, in doing so, enabling new business models, new social relationships and a new modus operandi for science. Open Science is a disruptive and systemic change of the order of magnitude of what e-commerce was for retail.’

Dr Thomas Crouzier, Assistant Professor at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, provided his perspectives about why an Open Science approach is needed to catalyse innovation:

‘One direct consequence of an Open Science approach is the broad availability of research data. Data can catalyse innovation in many ways. For instance, publicly available data can feed the latest mobile app service needing statistics about population demographics of a city, or can provide hints for new drug candidates that a biotech could invest in. Freeing up data is providing free fuel to the innovation machine.

‘But Open Science is more than just making data accessible. It is also about facilitating connections between stakeholders who previously didn’t necessarily interact. Open Science connects researchers with the general public and with the industry in much more intrinsic ways.

‘How? By allowing researchers to be more open and outspoken about their work, expertise and results through new communications tools. By accepting citizens as part of the scientific ecosystem through the citizen science movement. And by encouraging the industry to adopt an Open Innovation approach through hubs, either physical or virtual, that favour connection with academia.

‘Open Science will lead to a better interconnectivity between these three essential partners:

  • The researchers who have the know-how and are equipped to carry out research projects.
  • The industry, with strong financial power, that identifies market needs.
  • The general public, with user insights and the crowdsourcing potential it represents.’

In an interview at the October 2015 Science 2.0 — Science in Transition at the Quadriga Debate in Berlin, Stephane Berghmans, DVM PhD, Elsevier’s Vice President, Global Academic and Research Relations, provided his perspectives on the future of Open Science:

‘I see Open Science as an extremely important evolution in the field of research. I believe that the future of Open Science really lies in the hands of the next generation of researchers. It is our task to provide them with the right training to be able to fully optimise their Open Science needs. It is for this reason that the European Commission funded FOSTER (the Facilitate Open Science Training for European Research programme). Also, private initiatives from researchers and the new Elsevier Publishing Campus provide free training resources and information for early career researchers. Initiatives like these that target future generations of researchers are crucial in helping research processes to develop.’

As for the future of Open Science in Europe, the European Commission provides the following vision:

‘In the short term, Open Science is expected to lead to more transparency, research integrity, openness, inclusiveness and networked collaboration. In the long term, it should increase the impact and quality of science, making science more efficient, reliable and responsive to the grand challenges of our times, as well as fostering co-creation and Open Innovation.’

As the scientific world becomes increasingly more digital, and data sharing capabilities advance, Open Science will continue to grow in terms of both acceptance and impact — and help to spur the effectiveness of innovation on the European landscape.

In the second article in this series, Dr Thomas Crouzier shares further thoughts on Open Science, and we cover the highlights of ‘Science Ecosystem 2.0: how will change occur?’, a report he wrote for the EC. Stay tuned.


Originally published at medtechengine.com on March 15, 2016.

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Doris Retfalvi

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