Last monthʼs Research Matters focused on the benefits of international scientific collaboration. Collaboration incentivizes open science, which is a topic of interest in the research community today. One definition of open science is “the idea that scientific knowledge of all kinds should be openly shared as early as is practical in the discovery process.” The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine slightly expands that definition to reflect that open science is “an effort that aims to ensure the free availability and usability of scholarly publications, the data that result from scholarly research, and the methodologies, including code or algorithms that were used to generate those data.”
The Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2019 found that U.S. adults trust scientific research findings more if researchers make their data publicly available, which allows for independent review and corroboration.
One particularly potent example of publicly available data is The Cancer Genome Atlas , a landmark open-science program that characterized over 20,000 primary cancer and matched normal samples spanning 33 cancer types. This remarkable program was a joint effort between the National Cancer Institute and the National Human Genome Research Institute that brought together international researchers from diverse disciplines and multiple institutions. The program has a Genomic Data Commons Portal, which harmonizes cancer datasets available to the research community worldwide. In addition, investigators developed computational tools for data analysis and the technologies utilized to generate data that are available to everyone.
Another amazing example of open science is the NIH All of Us research program. The program is recruiting one million people across the U.S. to build a diverse health database for researchers to learn how biology, lifestyle, and environment affect health. The All of Us Research Hub allows investigators to view data and methods of data curation and access a workbench platform with a suite of custom tools.
The Open Research Area was established to strengthen international co-operation in the social sciences. It is a joint agreement between France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands to promote international collaboration, improve coordination between teams of researchers from different European states, and enable research collaboration with major and emerging research nations beyond Europe.
The Open Library of Humanities facilitates the open-access publication of all humanities disciplines. This international consortium of libraries funds open access publication of scholarly work with no author-facing article processing charges.
The UNC Health Sciences Library has an Open Access and Scholarly Communications portal that defines open access as “free, online availability of scholarly content that is free from most copyright and licensing restrictions.” This portal is an important guide for faculty to navigate open access publishing.
Examples like these inspired the National Academies to establish a roundtable forum focused on aligning incentives for open science. The roundtable has been convening two times per year exchanging ideas and strategies amongst stakeholders, including universities, funding agencies, societies, philanthropies, and industry.
In 2020, the forum held a workshop called Developing a Toolkit for Fostering Open Science Practices. One goal of the workshop was to reimagine the credit and reward systems for academic appointments, tenure, and promotion (APT) and grants in a manner that would incentivize open science practices. The workshop emphasized how academic research environments previously incentivized competition between individual researchers for hiring and promotion.
The increasing technical sophistication of research and the use of data in all disciplines makes it impossible for a single individual or lab to work alone. Success requires teams of researchers with diverse knowledge and skills to facilitate ongoing discovery, which means the APT process in academia is changing to account for scholarly contribution rather than order of authorship. Iʼm encouraged that Carolinaʼs recently revised APT guidelines align with collaborative and open research.