[open-science] "open science" definition?

Jenny Molloy jcmcoppice12 at gmail.com
Sun Oct 12 18:57:06 UTC 2014

Hi Tom

If we exclude all of the aspects of open science that are particularly
difficult to strictly define (i.e. basically all the social aspects) then
my feeling is that ensuring that the knowledge and tools created through
your research are available as per the Budapest Open Access Initiative (or
Berlin Declaration), Open Knowledge Definition, Free Software Definition
plus similar implementations for hardware and more specialised tools like
seeds, cell lines, reagents, other materials (not all of which exist but
most are being worked on) just about covers open scientific knowledge from
a legal/technical perspective. Of course, none of these tackle behaviours
like obfuscating data and methods.

How do people feel about the definitions I quoted before?

Michael Nielsen: “Open science is the idea that scientific knowledge of all
kinds should be openly shared as early as is practical in the discovery
Research Information Network: “science carried out and communicated in a
manner which allows others to contribute, collaborate and add to the
research effort, with all kinds of data, results and protocols made freely
available at different stages of the research process."

Would a version of these short definitions augmented with clear legal
definitions where applicable be helpful?

In the past conversations around definitions have morphed into
conversations around principles e.g. the Panton Principles for Open Data in
Science were specific recommendations for Open Definition compliant
publication of data (and to encourage publication of scientific data in the
first place - that conversation was happening less back in 2009).

I agree that multiplicity of meaning and lack of clear definitions increase
the likelihood that the term is misused and it's harder to call this out.
Open Access was defined by the Budapest Open Access Initiative but the term
is frequently applied to terms of access that are not BOAI-compliant.

Below I've copied a section of a paper I worked on for a project on open
and collaborative science in the global South, which takes the view that
there is an emerging consensus on the topics above but still much more to
be discussed. The full doc with references for statements and definitions
discussed above can be found here
. Pretty PDF and living, editable wiki versions coming soon.

Views on usefulness of and potential for an open science definition from
other list members welcome!


 1.2 Definition of openness - an emerging consensus?

 OCS4D explicitly refers to open approaches but ‘open’ has multiple
meanings in different contexts. Discussions during the workshops which fed
into this report revealed the diversity of individual conceptions of what
constitutes openness in science. A decision was taken not to attempt a
strict definition of the term but instead to explicitly acknowledge its
fuzziness and work towards articulating the different understandings. It is
clear that there are common features of openness, an attitude of sharing
and cooperation over secrecy and competition pervades all discussions in
the open movement and we can draw on the work of those who thought deeply
about the nature of openness in their own domain. For example, Smith and
Reilly (2013) propose that common themes of openness include:

“sharing ideas and knowledge; the ability to reuse, revise, and repurpose
content; increasing transparency of processes; expanding participation; and
collaborative production.”

>From a broader view of social activities, Smith and Elder (2010) propose
that openness favours:

a) Universal over restricted access;
b) Universal over restricted participation in informal and formal
groups/institutions; and
c) Collaborative over centralized production.

These reflect the primarily social, if technology-enabled and in some cases
technology-dependent, nature of open approaches. Splitting of openness into
three dimensions: open content, open participation (or people) and open
process makes this social dimension clearer and is employed in both open
development (Smith and Reilly, 2013) and open science under the headings of
open access, citizen science and open research. Smith et al. (2008) suggest
that generally “openness is a way of organizing social activities that
favours: (a) universal over restricted access, (b) universal over
restricted participation, and (c) collaborative over centralized

These definitions reflect the layered and multifaceted nature of openness
and the difficulty of demarcating a boundary of what constitutes ‘open’.
Open content, in terms of knowledge artefacts such as code, data and
writing, arguably has greater consensus on what open means due to a strong
reliance on legal tools, which by necessity require clear definitions.

 The background to open content is inspired by the open source software
community, where projects make all their code and documentation available
so anyone can contribute to a code base or ‘fork’ it to create their own
version of the program. Over the last three decades this has proven to be a
formidable and profitable innovation strategy, for example the most popular
operating system for smart phones, Android, runs on the open source
GNU-Linux kernel and open source company Red Hat Inc. has a market
capitalisation of 11.09 billion dollars (NYSE: RHT - Jan 14 12:56 PM ET).
Open source software communities required a legal basis to enable sharing
and reuse of code as it falls under copyright law, so one of their signal
accomplishments was the development and popularisation of permissive
copyright licences. These legal tools support the social organisation of
distributed creativity and their success inspired civil society to begin
developing the ideas of open access and open data using the same tools and

 In February 2002 the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI, 2002) produced
the Budapest Declaration calling for “the world-wide electronic
distribution of the peer-reviewed journal literature and completely free
and unrestricted access to it by all scientists, scholars, teachers,
students, and other curious minds.” The declaration argues that “Removing
access barriers to this literature will accelerate research, enrich
education, share the learning of the rich with the poor and the poor with
the rich, make this literature as useful as it can be, and lay the
foundation for uniting humanity in a common intellectual conversation and
quest for knowledge.”

 The declaration does more than argue for removal of barriers, it makes
explicit what open means for research literature.

 'By "open access" to this literature, we mean its free availability on the
public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute,
print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for
indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful
purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those
inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint
on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this
domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work
and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.'

The Budapest Declaration was followed by the Berlin Declaration initiated
by the Max Planck Institute (Max Planck Society, 2003) which again defines
open access in very similar terms:

 “Open access contributions must satisfy two conditions:The author(s) and
right holder(s) of such contributions grant(s) to all users a free,
irrevocable, worldwide, right of access to, and a license to copy, use,
distribute, transmit and display the work publicly and to make and
distribute derivative works, in any digital medium for any responsible
purpose, subject to proper attribution of authorship (community standards,
will continue to provide the mechanism for enforcement of proper
attribution and responsible use of the published work, as they do now), as
well as the right to make small numbers of printed copies for their
personal use.”

 Since the Budapest and Berlin declaration open access journals and
repositories have proliferated. However much scientific literature is still
only available through expensive, proprietary journals with limited impact
and even where open access is advertised, not all publishers or
stakeholders take the view of the BOAI that open access material may be
used for any lawful purpose and the right to view but not reuse or the
addition of non-commercial licensing clauses is common.

 Most of the focus on open access to research has been on journal articles,
which are not the sole research output to which open access may be
beneficial. Data can be equally important - as the currency of scientific
research, access to data underlying publications allows greater opportunity
for validation, replication and meta-analysis, building upon work that has
gone before. A commonly cited definition of open data is that contained in
the Open Knowledge Definition (*OKD* <http://opendefinition.org/>) Project
by the Open Knowledge Foundation, which draws heavily on the Free Software
Definition (*FSD* <https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html>) governing
open source software licensing. However, the OKD covers all knowledge
objects and copyrightable content, not specifically data and therefore does
not take into account the particular requirements of scientific data
producers and consumers. A pioneering initiative to define and promote open
data in the sciences is found in the Panton Principles (Murray-Rust et. al,
2010), which go beyond the OKD legal requirements to recommend that data is
placed explicitly in the public domain with no restrictions on its use:

 “By open data in science we mean that it is freely available on the public
internet permitting any user to download, copy, analyse, re-process, pass
them to software or use them for any other purpose without financial,
legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining
access to the internet itself. To this end data related to published
science should be explicitly placed in the public domain.”

 Calls for open data provision have been repeated by the Science Ministers
of the G8 countries (June 2013)1
<#148ff6a159044de3_148ff54b5a139189_148ff273adb59f1a_sdfootnote1sym>, the
Royal Society (2012), the US Government and the European Commission as well
as major funders such as the Wellcome Trust, who also operate in the global

Open science requires, as the various declarations and statements make
clear, that resources be legally open i.e. that the default rules of
intellectual property are waived to the extent described above via a legal
mechanism. Any such waiver includes, crucially, that permission for reuse
does not need to be obtained. The resources discussed above are familiar to
the scientific community as content based research outputs, the legal
framework for opening and sharing more diverse research objects such as
hardware, genetic “tools”, cell lines and materials is still being

 It is therefore clear that there is a convergence in thinking about the
legal openness of particular kinds of research outputs but little emerging
consensus on openness of less traditional tools and outcomes or on all
forms of social openness, which include inclusiveness to participation in
research and the transparency of the research process. These themes, which
will be explored later in this chapter, illustrate that a multifaceted
concept such as openness in OCS4D necessitates a multifaceted system of
measurement and cannot be reduced to a binary categorisation. This
uncertainty creates potential for the term to use be used in a variety of
circumstances where openness is limited and commitment to using legal tools
to ensure scaleable and sustainable openness is not apparent. An example
would be tools facilitating sharing within the scientific community but not
open to all users regardless of field of endeavour.

1 <#148ff6a159044de3_148ff54b5a139189_148ff273adb59f1a_sdfootnote1anc> “i.
To the greatest extent and with the fewest constraints possible publicly
funded scientific research data should be open, while at the same time
respecting concerns in relation to privacy, safety, security and commercial
interests, whilst acknowledging the legitimate concerns of private partners.

ii. Open scientific research data should be easily discoverable,
accessible, assessable, intelligible, useable, and wherever possible
interoperable to specific quality standards.

iii. To maximise the value that can be realised from data, the mechanisms
for delivering open scientific research data should be efficient and cost
effective, and consistent with the potential benefits.

iv. To ensure successful adoption by scientific communities, open
scientific research data principles will need to be underpinned by an
appropriate policy environment, including recognition of researchers
fulfilling these principles, and appropriate digital infrastructure.”

Meeting of Science Ministers of the G8 countries (June 2013)

On Thu, Oct 9, 2014 at 7:00 PM, Tom Roche <Tom_Roche at pobox.com> wrote:

> Tom Roche Tue, 07 Oct 2014 14:09:29 -0400 [1]
> >> is there a definition of open *science*, suitable for similar reference
> use [as the "Open Definition"]?
> Jenny Molloy Thu, 9 Oct 2014 15:43:18 +0100 [2]
> > There are probably as many definitions of open science as people you ask,
> Perhaps, but
> 1. your response addresses only the empirical aspect of reference, not the
> normative.
> 2. multiplicity can "be part of the problem."
> An example:
> Presumably listizens all believe that open science is good, and seek to
> further its adoption. We can do this via positive or negative
> reinforcement. Positively, one might seek to reward those practicing open
> science. "Nobel prizes" being presumably beyond reach at present :-) one
> might pursue, e.g., badging. Badging without any sort of quality-control
> (e.g., some sort of certification process) is obviously suboptimal, but,
> again, is probably all that is feasible for all but the most-well-funded
> groups. Still, with some sort of definition (or, at least,
> checklist--definition by example), one could at least provide some sort of
> sanction on fraudulent self-certification. (E.g., public shaming: "You gave
> your project an open-science badge, but you lack this, that, and the other
> thing.") But a badge backed with neither certification or definition is not
> only meaningless, but seems abuse-prone: cf. the use of "natural" applied
> to food[3].
> Similarly, I suspect that partial or convenient definitions of "open
> science" will be developed either purely for profit (see this photo[4] of
> "members of the Springer behavioral sciences team [who] wore advertisements
> for new journal policies"[5]), or to neuter it--to "embrace, extend, and
> extinguish" open science[6].
> > the major complication is that the Open Definition addresses
> > outputs, be they data, publications, code or other knowledge
> > 'objects' to which licences can be applied.
> > Open science as used by many people also encompasses open process -
> > openness to participation and transparency at different steps of the
> > discovery process and therefore also addresses issues such as inclusion,
> > modes of collaboration, democratisation of science and a host of other
> > factors which are really difficult to define.
> ... which is an excellent reason to exclude such factors, until such point
> as they are meaningfully definable.
> Every day, scientists (and the better sorts of philosophers) exclude
> "factors which are really difficult to define," refuse to "allow the
> perfect to be the enemy of the good," and model what can be modeled. As
> relevant factors become definable, we include them; but, all too often,
> that which cannot be defined is found to be meaningless[7].
> FWIW, Tom Roche <Tom_Roche at pobox.com>
> [1] https://lists.okfn.org/pipermail/open-science/20141007/003535.html
> [2] https://lists.okfn.org/pipermail/open-science/20141009/003541.html
> [3]
> http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/20/business/trade-group-seeks-natural-label-on-modified-food.html
> [4]
> http://www.slate.com/content/dam/slate/articles/health_and_science/science/2014/07/140730_SCI_ReplicateScientists.jpg.CROP.original-original.jpg
> [5]
> http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2014/07/replication_controversy_in_psychology_bullying_file_drawer_effect_blog_posts.single.html
> [6] Note that there are already enemies at least of replication[5] and
> open access, practices that I suspect most listizens would consider
> components of open science.
> [7] Cf. Wittgenstein: "Wovon mann nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man
> schweigen."
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