Open science improves the quality of science

Open science improves the quality of science

news | Editors

October 29 2021 | “We can still say that some animal experiments are very important for public health,” Frank Medema says during a webinar at Utrecht University on improving animal testing. However, open science has already played an important role in improving the situation.

Bild: Andrew Scoron via Wikimedia Commons.

Open science is primarily concerned with the question of how science can be improved by conducting socially relevant research, as well as by conducting it in a socially acceptable manner. This was stated by Frank Medema, Vice Chancellor for Research at Utrecht University and Head of the Open Science Program at the same university, during a UU webinar on animal experimentation and open science. This is partly about setting a common agenda, but it is also about the way you approach topics. Medema believes that the use of animals in research is a good example of this.

Open science grew out of the field of responsible science and innovation, explains the vice chancellor. As for who the research is being conducted with, with whom it is being conducted, and how it contributes to society, these are important questions. “When we say we are open to input from the community, we are open to debate about the way we conduct science, the way we approach animal testing is one of the highest priorities.”

Critical questions from the community help science move forward

The use of animals in clinical trials has already received a great deal of attention, and regulations and guidelines have already been adapted accordingly. In this respect, it is thus a good example of what open science can mean to science. When I was a student myself and during my PhD I also worked with animals, especially mice and rats. That was over forty years ago, and we used thousands of animals there. There was no protocol for that at the time, that was how it was done, but that’s why I can admit it now. Now, after all the actions of the ensuing years, people know a lot about these kinds of experiences. Because we really need all those mice and rats? “

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These kinds of questions are now front and center, says Miedema, also in internal discussions and meetings. Even major magazines like Nature and Science have articles dedicated to this. fact; These journals contain rules about animal experimentation that scientists must adhere to if they want to feature an article.

This is also where the science should be headed, according to the vice chancellor. “I am very aware of what I did early in my career, but it also gives me a very good idea of ​​where we are going. People look at us. Not only in politics, but also the general public is paying attention to this. We can still say that some animal experiments are very important. For public health, it is, but this use should be justified, well discussed, and evidence-based. Open science addresses this, which is why I think this is very important for this.”

Open science requires a different method of recognition and evaluation

However, in the context of animal experiments, it is still sometimes difficult to use alternatives. Experiments can take longer with this, or they can become much more expensive. Sometimes managers want to look purely at number of publications or costs, says Miedema, which is why recognition and evaluation are also an important factor in open science. “A researcher can publish less, but publications are getting better. Policy makers should properly encourage and encourage researchers to conduct research in this way.”

According to Jeroen Gorts, Chairman of Medical Finance Corporation ZonMw, recognition and evaluation are also motivated by funding. We have a clear mission: to stimulate health research and innovation in health care. We also want to increase the impact of research. One of the ways we do it is encouragement open access. From this year onwards, the requirement to get support from us is that the materials only if open access may be published.

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COVID research is also made possible through open science

However, recognition and evaluation is not something that only the Netherlands is involved in, says Miedema. This happens nationally, European and internationally. Almost all EU member states have decided to prioritize open science, and they also know that the recognition and recognition system must change. Movements are everywhere to overturn this system, in the context of open science. She gets a lot of attention, both within academia and in political circles. It’s tough, I have to talk about it a lot, it takes a lot of energy, but it happens all over the place. And in Europe, however, a lot of progress is being made.”

However, Medima often still has to explain why these changes are necessary. “We want open access, we want open data, but what we want most is science to be involved in problems in society.”

The current example of this is research into COVID-19. ZonMw has attempted to incentivize open data with box applications. The condition for getting that was that the researchers had to share their data in a private COVID database, Geurts says. “This is about fair use of the data. In discussions with the same type of organizations as ZonMw from other countries, we saw that data on the genetic makeup of the virus was not available everywhere. Countries below the equator, for example, have historically had less access to The data that money is loaded on. Certainly in something like a pandemic, you want everyone to have access to the same data globally, so that the same knowledge is available everywhere.”

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At the same time, scientists from these countries can also share their knowledge and data. This is a very active international discussion, and according to Gorts, it is actually shocking how little has been done in this area so far. “We are now seeing in such a severe situation an epidemic that it is not doing well enough yet.”

The scientific profession should not have a fixed pattern

According to Gorts, it is important that science and education be combined with leadership or patient care in this sector, but this does not always have to be done simultaneously. There should be more room for movement during a scientific career. So this is encouraged at ZonMw. “If someone wants to focus on politics or education after a few years of science, they have to be able to do that. And then you have to be able to go back to science again. At ZonMw, we can contribute to that, for example, by asking I prefer five or ten scholarly publications when applying for funding, rather than the total number.”

According to Gorts, it can also help to look more at research teams, in which all of these aspects are reflected, rather than at individual scientists. “Team science, where everyone within a team has their own strengths, is one such term that is becoming increasingly popular, and we’re following that closely. Another example is how we rate PhD students. For example, we can focus more on what they do to promote open science.” Whether the data is public or easily accessible. That will be even more important in the future I dream of.”

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