The World Wide Web is a global communication platform transforming research and education. The data-driven paradigm, although in different contexts, affects all fields of science. New scientific methods are emerging supported by unprecedented ability to move data around and the capacity to process them even in extreme large volumes . Trust in the scientific enterprise builds on evidence-based methods and mechanisms of peer review and scrutiny. This has been working well for centuries involving more or less homogeneous groups of scientists. But if trust is a fundamental and time invariant value of science, it has to scale in order to preserve it in a hyper connected world. It has to take into account multidisciplinary approaches, citizens’ growing scientific literacy and their engagement in science. The Web obliges us to reflect and put in place a framework for webs of trust. In order to scale, a trust-enabling framework has to get the acceptance of the wider research communities, incorporating incentives to push further frontiers of knowledge. It has to promote a culture of transparency supporting reproducibility of experiments for well-founded review. It should take into account established good practices and traditions which differ across scientific communities. The European Commission (EC) has been working on a framework of open science addressing in particular the impact from data, computing and networking infrastructures. Important steps were taken when launching Horizon 2020.
As proposed in the “Open Science for the 21st century” declaration , open science can be unfolded in three components: open cultures, open content and open infrastructures. From the perspective of trust building, open science envisages optimal sharing of research data and also publications, software, and educational resources. The potential to mash-up, and to re-use research datasets will not only enable accurate scrutiny but will also reveal unexpected relationships and will trigger new findings. The European Commission is engaged to ensure an open access framework for publications stemming from EU-funded research and is progressively opening access to the research data (the basis for Horizon 2020). The EC is asking funding bodies in EU Member States to do the same.
Open infrastructures and the Research Data Alliance (RDA)
e-infrastructures are key components of the open science framework. They support advanced science and enable online research collaboration across disciplines at global level. They have the potential to structure the global knowledge space, increase scope, depth and economies of scale of the scientific enterprise. And, not least, they bridge the gap between scientists and the citizen and are enablers of trust in the scientific process. Data is a basic element of e-infrastructures. It has always been so but even more now at the dawn of “data-driven science” when e-infrastructures become a great opportunity for widening the participatory nature of science. The Riding the Wave and the Data Harvest reports highlight the strategic importance for Europe to support interoperability of research data infrastructures. They also point strongly at the need to support cost-effective research data management and the emergence of a computing literate generation of researchers in all fields of science. The European Commission is supporting the development of a pan-European multi-disciplinary data infrastructure through Horizon 2020 and policy developments centred on openness and interoperability. The global Research Data Alliance will support the EC strategy to achieve global scientific data interoperability in a way that real actors (users and producers of data, service providers, network and computing infrastructures, researchers and their organisations) are in the driving seat. Investments in digital infrastructure are needed to ensure that Europe remains a central hub for research and innovation, offering the best infrastructure to the brightest minds in the world.
Universality of science requires trusted and equitable access across all economic and social sectors. An open science framework will help fostering transparency and integrity and therefore trust in the scientific enterprise. An open science/open e-infrastructure framework should preserve the incentives of scientific discovery and the need to share and trust in order to collaborate across disciplinary and geographical boundaries, and also to develop the infrastructure capacity to support innovation. All stakeholders of the science, education and innovation “ecosystem” should promote practical applications of open science principles. For an open science framework to emerge the active contribution of many different players is necessary: from policy makers and funders to the individual researcher and ultimately to the engaged citizen. It requires a strong coordination effort at European and global levels and the promotion of global interoperability of data infrastructures through community-led initiatives such as the Research Data Alliance.
Carlos Morais Pires, coordinates the area of “Scientific Data e-Infrastructures” at the European Commission, DG CONNECT
Riding the Wave Report: http://kwz.me/Df
Data Harvest report: http://kwz.me/Dj
Research Data Alliance: https://rd-alliance.org/
Science as an open enterprise, The Royal Society Science Policy Centre, June 2012: http://kwz.me/Dq
Open Science Declaration: http://kwz.me/Dv