SOMMa Open Science Day - a day of exchange about science openness

Information and Communication Technologies Engineering Department at Universitat Pompeu Fabra (DTIC - UPF)
  • The SOMMa Open Day took place at DTIC-UPF, co-organised with BCAM Bilbao
  • Dozens of professionals meet in a day of sharing about Open Science
  • The SOMMa working group in Open Science grows and starts planning future actions


SOMMa and Open Science

Opening science is one way to make it more accessible as well as more collaborative. It contributes to increase its impact and to generate new opportunities to engage citizens. SOMMa, to that regard, believes that Open Science will help accelerate scientific discovery and expand the impact and benefits of science for society. Convinced of that, SOMMa supports it resolutely.

SOMMa members include institutions which already have clear policies in favour of Open Science, and that develop specific actions for openness: the open sharing of their scientific processes and results, the deploying of data repositories and infrastructure, the sharing of expertise and good practice, training and more.

Venue of the SOMMa Open Science Day, DTIC-UPF, from the above inside.

On past November the 25th took place the 100xCiencia.3 meeting, where SOMMa members, together with external partners debated about how to more and better engage citizens into science and research, also hand-in-hand with political debates on how to improve the situation of science and science policy in Spain.

More recently, on April the 8th took place the “SOMMa Open Science day”. It was co-organised by two of the 48 members of the alliance, an the Engineering and Information Technologies Department of the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (DTIC-UPF) and the Basque Center for Applied Mathematics (BCAM Bilbao), both of them part of the SOMMa working group in Open Science.


An appetizer before the start

Open Science activities started earlier that morning after crossing the gates of DTIC-UPF, the venue for the day. Before the actual SOMMa Open Science Day took place, workshops about Open Science were yet taking place in parallel. These would carry on for the duration of the SOMMa event, but there was chance to have a glimpse of them. It was under the lead of ORION Open Science, an European project coordinated by Barcelona’s Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), that the companion workshops on Open Science would begin.

A moment of the workshop, with Emma Harris explaining the basics of Open Access publishing.

To the session contributed law expert Malcolm Bain (Across Legal), offering insights into the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), as relevant to the treatment of data. The workshop would later be followed by a tutorial about Wikimedia public resources (by Diego Sáez Trumper, Wikimedia Foundation). Of course, the usual pauses for coffee and sandwiches also had their place, giving room for getting attendees to know each other.


SOMMa Open Science Day starts

With the ORION workshop still ongoing, started the SOMMa Open Science Day. It kicked off at the auditorium of DTIC-UPF with Lawyer Malcolm Bain back in scene, making the opening keynote speech. He re-opened the subject of GDPR, treating about matters such as the obligations one needs to fulfil to comply with GDPR, and how this needs to translate into a solid protocol where traceability must remain solid at all parts of the workflow.

A key point stressed was the need for the data management plan clearly defining what can, and what cannot be done with a given set of data. Failing to do so could lead to potentially dire legal consequences. During all the handling, use and re-use of data, the principle of accountability presides. These are all considerations that take particular relevance for potentially shareable datasets, not allowing the efficient use and re-use of data to be neglected as a result.

Malcolm Bain starting his talk about how to effectively –and safely- comply with GDPR.

Still with the words of Mr. Bain lingering, the end of the lunch break was followed by a thorough explanation on the situation of Open Science in Spain. Pilar Rico, head of the Unit of Open Access, Repositories and Journals at the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT) richly described the many action taking place. Dr. Rico talked, with the stream of her discourse flowing into aspects of the implications opening research, and the impact on evaluation processes that openness of research should have.

The importance was discussed of defining right indicators for measuring openness. It was mentioned, the hurdles found for implementation of open access policies (and more broadly, open Science) is common both to Spain and to Europe, which invites to coordinated action. Before finishing, Rico issued an invitation for SOMMa to participate in the working group on Open Science at the Spanish State level, an invitation that SOMMa readily accepted, with an intent on contributing positively towards Spanish science and to its openness.

Actors, approaches and stakeholders, as explained by Pilar Rico: a panoramic view at a glance.

Michela Bertero, of the International and Scientific Affairs department at CRG spoke next. She talked about what steps can be taken in support of Open Science. The importance of doing so at the policy level was highlighted, with a focus on the role of European policy. Nonetheless, much can still be done from research institutions themselves, something that was not overlooked.

An illustration of the challenges ahead and the actors and stakeholders involved was put on display, after which attention was drawn to the European Commission’s Open Science Policy Platform. This group, that interacts with many of the involved stakeholders, gives advice to the European Commission for the successful development and deployment of the Open Science policy. As mentioned Bertero, this platform has directly and indirectly yielded yet a pool of close to 100 recommendations for Open Science policy in Europe.

As a relevant example of actions taken from the side of research institutions, the positioning of the EU-Life alliance in face of the Plan S initiative for Open Access publishing was put forth. Their document reaction to the Plan S. was discussed, drawing attention to two key ideas: quality and peer review should be and remain at the heart of Open Access policy, and for its successful deployment, a coordinated effort is necessary.

From left to right: Xavier Serra, Pilar Rico and Michela Bertero, in the final discussion.

The closing speaker was the director of DTIC-UPF, Xavier Serra. He took word with his presentation giving insights into the use of Open Science principles for the distribution of internal resources at their institution. More details of what this has entailed and how it has contributed to generate novel structures can be found at the DTIC-UPF website, where it is explained in some detail how they went about strategically funding excellence under open science principles.

During the talk, the case of the Freesound platform was put forth. This, an open sound sharing platform for re-usable soundclip storage and deposition was a success that, perhaps unexpectedly, translated into a stream of donations that allowed for its sustainability, collaterally unlocking resources for advancing other projects. After Dr. Serra closed the talk, the two previous speakers took seats with him in the auditorium table, facing the public and their questions.


Closing the Open Science day

Subjects addressed or suggested before were brought forth in the final discussion, in one reformulation or another. The opening up or not of research, it was said, can be subjected indeed to opposing forces. An obvious example is whether researchers are willing to sacrifice publishing in the highest impact journals in order to publish Open Access. In an extremely competitive landscape for researchers, this may pose with an impossible dilemma.

Should Open Science criteria be included into the evaluation of the excellence of a given project or institution? If yes, and quite critically, what are the best indicators for rewarding the openness at the same time as the excellence of science, neglecting none of both? While it was agreed that advocating openness should not entail renouncing to excellence, it could be foreseen that this subject would remain subject of discussion. Alas, the clock finally struck the lively discussion to an end. If you did not make it, perhaps you can watch some of the recordings at the DTIC-UPF website, here.

Warming up after the SOMMa Open Science day: interlude before the meeting of the Open Science working group.

Finally, just a moment after the end of the SOMMa Open Science Day, a publicly open meeting of the Open Science working group of the SOMM alliance took place. Open, among others, to the recruitment of new members, the collecting of ideas and yet starting to look ahead to the future. What actions were to be taken next? An enlarged critical mass of motivated contributors was formed, leaving as a guarantee… that more news on Open Science actions by SOMMa are to come.


Picture Credits:

All pictures taken by the staff of the SOMMa communications office except the picture of OS stakeholders, kindly provided by Michela Bertero.

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