Funding-agency policies mandating that scientific papers and data are made publicly available have helped to drive the adoption of preprints, open-access publishing and data repositories. But agencies often struggle to measure how closely grant recipients comply with the funding policies. Awardees, and the institutes that employ them, can struggle to ensure they are following the rules. Now, digital tools are cropping up to help both sides of the funding equation stick to the regulations.
NASA’s Science Mission Directorate plans to give the broader research community access to its data, software, computing resources and collaboration tools. But that effort will take time and its own resources, prompting the agency to ask the open-source science community for its opinions on where to start.
Technological progress in cloud computing and network infrastructure has gotten to the point where remote users can access huge troves of data and tap into faraway computing resources, like those owned and operated by NASA. The potential for limitless input and innovation from unexpected—or underrepresented—corners of the research community can supercharge scientific discovery, SMD officials said in a request for information posted Thursday.
In these research positions, professors agree to ensure all of their writing is distributed via open access — and they release all of their intellectual property in the public domain or under appropriate open-source licences.
But many academics want to see their research fully accessible — free for everyone. My research with colleagues has found the majority of American and Canadian academics want to see universities establish open-source endowed chairs.
How academics use intellectual property
Intellectual property (IP) refers to mind creations like patents and copyrights. Academics use all kind of IP. For example, professors publish their work as articles in peer-reviewed journals, the majority of which are under copyright.
If you have ever tried to read an academic paper, you probably couldn’t. Most academic papers are behind paywalls.
To gain access through the paywalls costs an enormous amount of money for a library (even Harvard’s library balked at having to pay more than US$1 million per year to access articles from a single publisher).
Accessible research in science matters because the more scientists that can read the relevant literature, the more scientists can help push innovations forward and the faster we are able to find solutions.
Many universities brag about the number of patents their professors write. Patents are supposed to encourage innovation because they give the inventor a 20-year monopoly to profit from an invention and this provides a financial incentive.
The basic idea is a professor would patent an invention that could be mass manufactured and then reap licence revenue for 20 years.
This is because most innovation builds on other ideas and there is no “fair use” for patents.
It is illegal to even experiment on a patented idea without a licence. If you need to wait 20 years to build on a good idea, it obviously takes a lot of time to innovate. Historically innovation moved rather slowly, now the rate of innovation is fast. Consider now how ancient a 20-year-old phone would be in your pocket.
Some academics like science and engineering professors do make money on patents for their universities. But the patent revenue they keep tends to be meager, because the costs to get the patent must first be recovered before the inventors get anything.
Open source is a better way
Open source is the answer to speeding up innovation. Open source originally was developed in the software industry as inventors would share the source code of computer programs to innovate faster.
Open source works amazingly well because having a lot of people work on a problem together tends to get a much better solution than a few.
In both these studies, we presented participants with information about open-source endowed professorships to provide context and clarity for the subsequent multiple-choice and open-ended questions.
We looked at professors in every stage of their career (assistant to emeritus), tenured and non-tenured, at all types of universities (colleges to institutions with very high research activity), and in all disciplines including professional programs.
We analyzed results for three core disciplines of engineering/technology, natural sciences and social sciences to assess if there are differences in preferred compensation types among scholars of various disciplines.
The will to share was robust across all variables. Professors as a whole would be willing to make all of their IP freely available in exchange for the open-source endowed chair.
I currently hold the John M. Thompson Chair in Information Technology and Innovation, and am one of the first endowed chairs to make an open-source commitment.
It is clear, even from my own work that has been sped along by many others freely contributing to my open-source projects, that science will move faster with open-source methods.
There is a clear willingness of academics to leave behind antiquated IP models for the good of science and society. It is time to provide incentives to accelerate innovation using open science to hasten scientific progress while also making science more just and inclusive.
All research funders — governments, foundations, private companies, donors and universities — should start funding open-source endowed chairs to maximize the impact of their resources.
Over the past four years, the Earth and Space Science (ESS) Open Archive has preserved over 10,000 early research outputs – preprints, posters, and presentations – contributed by nearly 37,000 authors across 25 subject areas. Now, ESS Open Archive is moving to a different platform supported by Authorea. Nick Violette, AGU Senior Program Manager for Publications and ESS Open Archive, spoke with the Editor in Chief, Jonathan Jiang, about how these new features will serve the community.
FAIRsharing.org is a curated, searchable registry of metadata standards; databases and repositories; and funder and journal policies that are relevant to specific domains or types of data…
FAIRsharing.org is a registry developed to help researchers and those who support them fulfill the FAIR principles by enabling them to readily locate the recommended metadata and reporting standards for particular domains or types of data, identify appropriate repositories for data storage and access, and reference journal and funder policies. As of this writing the site contains over 1600 records for standards, nearly 2000 records for databases/repositories, and over 150 records for policies.
The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) has committed to making all of its journals open access within the next five years. It is the first chemistry publisher to commit to a 100% open access model and hopes to fund the move in a way that will avoid individual authors having to pay article processing charges (APCs).
Within the scientific community, the words “open science” have been on everyone’s lips in recent years. Open science entails a great promise of a democracy of knowledge, and it is considered to be a universally good thing. In the words of the UN Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.”
So, how could anyone disagree with the beautiful principles of open access to knowledge? Who could object to the openness of research articles, research data and research methods?