“Open science [is] just science done right.”1: This is how Melanie Imming and Jon Tennant explain a pan-disciplinary and by now increasingly institutionalised research tendency visible in the digital sphere that is subsumed under the term “open science”.
The “rightness” they a tribute to the concept of research being open to the public in all phases of the research process has both a practical and an ideological component. First off, if the body of publicly accessible material goes beyond just final results published and sold commercially as essays in books and other analogue and digital media to also encompass all materials and documents produced en route to these findings (such as research data as well as preliminary hypotheses that may end up being falsified later on), then these by-products need to be worked out and documented in significantly better quality than is generally the case with researchers working “all by their lonesome”. Therefore, such work needs to be “done right”. The other “right” thing about open science is that a process and its findings financed by public moneys should be accessible to all who paid for them—in other words, to those who pay taxes, which is to say: everybody.
Open Science Network Austria (OANA)2 defines five dimensions of open science. These include Open Research Data (which, in the humanities, can take on many forms—such as scanned manuscripts, photographed art objects, machine-readable texts, geodata, lists of individuals, and literature databases), the concept of Open Evaluation (the publishing of evaluations of research works, e.g. the commentaries on essays produced during peer review processes), the opening of the research process to individuals outside the respective fields (known as Citizen Science), and Open Methodology, which consists in rendering transparent the steps that led to research findings (which, in the computer science context, also includes the Open Source movement that has for decades been promoting the free availability of software).
But alongside these still relatively little-known dimensions of openness, the core and origin of the open science movement is first and foremost the idea of Open Access, according to which research publications are universally accessible at no cost. This not only makes it possible for laypeople to inform themselves about the topics being researched in a qualified manner but also revolutionises the way in which research itself functions. And for researchers, open access entails a twofold expansion of their horizon: research literature that was previously expensive or simply unavailable from the library at one’s home institution can now be accessed anytime and anywhere, which helps to facilitate an informed research process and ultimately also more precise, higher-quality results. But open access also affords one’s own work greater significance and visibility, making it available not only to journal subscribers and users of well-equipped libraries, but to everyone … always.
For things meant to be accessible to absolutely everyone absolutely always, the 21st century—for the first time in human history—has a place where this is (at least in theory) possible: the Internet. This explains the open science movement’s integral relationship with digitisation, which poses new challenges to the humanities in particular. The first step toward openness therefore consists in building up the digital infrastructure that makes this openness possible. And with the launch of its own publication server pub.mdw, the mdw has taken its own important and visible first step. It is now up to the University’s researchers to fill this open space with knowledge.
* This article is available under the license CC BY 4.0 International: creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0