Open Science in the field of Humanities

CONTEXT

Open Science is a practice of science and a movement to make scientific research, data and dissemination accessible to all levels of an inquiring society under terms that enable the reuse, redistribution and replicability of the research and its underlying data and methods.

“Open Science represents a new approach to the scientific process based on cooperative work and new ways of diffusing knowledge by using digital technologies and new collaborative tools […] shifting from the standard practices of publishing research results in scientific publications towards sharing and using all available knowledge at an earlier stage in the research process”
(Open Innovation, Open Science, Open to the World – a vision for Europe, EU 2016)

The basic principles of the Open Science can be found, for example, in the Vienna declaration: accessibility, capacity to promote discoveries, reusability, reproducibility, transparency, understanding, collaboration, quality assurance, evaluation, validation, innovation and public good (see also, M. Nielsen, Reinventing Discovery: The New Era of Networked Science. Princeton University Press, 2012, from the author who first proposed the term ‘Open Science’ as an informal working definition, before writing his book about the topic).

The European Commission embraced the basic principles of Open Science and integrated them into all its research (and Innovation) policies (the European Commission’s 2014 public consultation on ‘Science 2.0: Science in Transition’ paved the way for the introduction of the term ‘Open Science’ in such a political context – see also, the background document by the DGRI, EC 2014).


The Open Science movement includes the following initiatives:

OPEN ACCESS

promotes open, free and immediate access to academic, scientific, educational or any other type of digital resources.

OPEN DATA

promotes an access to freely available data for everybody, without restrictions of copyrights, patents, or restrictive mechanisms.

OPEN SOURCE

 promotes the reproducibility of computer software code, using license in which the copyright holder provides the rights to study, change, and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose.

CITIZEN SCIENCE

promotes the involvement of the public in scientific research, whether in community-driven research projects or research at a global level.

These initiatives bring benefits beyond the research itself (OECD, 2015: 18). The main rationale behind them is to increase the scientific quality of the funded projects due: their replicability, the transparency in the use of data and analytic methods, the constant availability to external reviewing processes. Developing an open science practice, which follows the principles above, is also meant to generate projects of a greater socio-economic impact, primarily because of the increased accessibility to the scientific results.

In the last decade, Open Science has had a great impact on the disciplines of STEM. For example, Zenodo, created in 2013 by CERN and Open Aire is a reference in the scientific field as a platform and repository of data, currently integrated with Github and is open to all fields of science. Another example is represented by Zooniverse.org, the largest citizen science platform worldwide where projects ranging from natural sciences to astrophysics have been carried out, thanks to the collaboration of users.

On the contrary, the influence of Open Science in the Humanities has not been as strong as it has been in STEM due to the particularities of the field. The impact is still very far or unknown with respect to the above initiatives, which, on the other hand, have great potential for the future of the digital humanities.

BY DEFINITION, ALL DISCIPLINES IN THE HUMAMNITIES HAVE IN COMMON SOME FEATURES:

Humanities traditionally have not played a relevant role in the impact of research and valorization field at a time when this is increasingly necessary. A wide front opens up where Open Science can contribute and help to apply these practices. Contribution to research and social impact are not opposite terms nor do they pose a problem for excellence.

Data collection, due to its complexity, is a research task in itself. In other disciplines, it is a preliminary step to the development of the research activity. Therefore, there is no tendency to share and open databases, since it can not be guaranteed that this work will be recognized/cited.

The publication in peer review journals is not a standardized practice, therefore there is no rigorous external evaluation of the results with the obligation to publish the data.

The richness of the Humanities is linked to multilingualism and local cases of study. Opening and sharing data and results on a global scale is still a challenge.

Humanities can potentially benefit by implementing Open Science practices, if we look at potential impacts:

  • An open data environment, with official repositories, where data are published and can be cited, would enable a higher impact on the discipline and encourages greater collaboration between researchers and scientific communities.
  • Access to data that are originally fragmented can allow a greater impact on the disciplines and encourages greater collaboration between researchers and scientific communities.
  • Citizen Science initiatives can carry out projects with large data sets working with the intrinsic value of the Humanities In addition, this process would promote a larger the participation of citizenship into research, thus improving its impact.
  • Citizen science projects in fields such as linguistics, anthropology, heritage or ethnography allow access to regional / specific knowledge and involving stakeholders in the research process.
  • Developing the Digital Humanities movement, which is currently one of the main funding channels for these disciplines, in a more open direction would allow a higher impact and ensure the sustainability of the initiatives.
  • Having more visibility as a discipline allows people in Humanities to have more capacity to lobby and work more closely with policy makers to obtain more favorable results in the field.

Concluding, Open Science applied to Humanities could mean:

  • Sustainable projects and initiatives
  • Valorization of Humanities knowledge and practises
  • Bigger research impact
  • Promotion of new discoveries and paradigms
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