​From now on, I will only do open science

I’m done. No more. From now on, for me it is Open Science, or nothing. I will no longer do closed science.


Source: wikimedia commons, user Jérôme

I did my PhD in the late 1990’s, and was educated in the ‘classical mode’ of doing science: do your work, get it published in a journal with an as high as possible impact factor, write grants or apply for a postdoc to do more such science. As a result, articles that resulted from my PhD work appeared in closed access journals.

Fast forward more than 10 years, and science is changing, opening up: Open Access is gaining traction, Open Source software is what I use every day, Open Data is trending. And I am sold, have been for a few years now. Open Science is the best way to guarantee scientific progress, to spread knowledge fast, and to stimulate collaboration and reduce competition. To use the famous quote:

The opposite of ‘open’ isn’t closed. The opposite of open is ‘broken.’ – John Wilbanks

But, opening up for me has been hampered by working in a research environment that is very slow in its uptake of Open Science. The lure of the Impact Factor is still very much present, as is the fear of being scooped by early sharing of data. I can’t really blame any of my colleagues, it has been their way of doing science as long as they can remember. They will stick to this way of pursuing science unless the scientific reward system changes, from its reliance on publications in high Impact factor journals needed for grants, which again are needed for a career, towards recognising the true value and impact of a scientist’s contribution towards advancing knowledge. But for me, it is enough now. I am opening up.

I have been pretty open already, posting my presentations to slideshare, making posters and illustrations available through figshare, putting scripts and teaching material on github, posting my peer review reports to publons and blogging about all of this. But there is still so much of what I do that is hidden, closed, unavailable to interested colleagues and potential collaborators. This ends now. I am going to open fully.

I used to think it was no use taking this step, as I am not an independent scientist, I do not have my own funding or my own lab. Rather, I work together with many others or (co)supervise students on different projects. So I didn’t really feel I ‘owned’ the research, the data or the code being produced, and felt I was not in a position to open it up. I also feared I would close doors by using openness as a criterion for my participation in a project. But I have now realised that it is too much a matter of principle for me, that if I want a career in science, it has to be on my conditions, that is, open. Whatever the consequences.

Others before me have taken this step, and in true reuse-what-is-open spirit, I have made my own version of Erin McKiernan’s Open plegde.

My pledge to be open:

  • I will not edit, review, or work for closed access journals
  • I will blog my work and post preprints, when possible
  • I will publish only in open access journals
  • I will pull my name off a paper if coauthors refuse to be open
  • I will share my code, when possible
  • I will share my raw and processed data, when possible
  • I will practice open notebook science, when possible
  • I will share my review reports
  • I will speak out about my choices

Adapted from McKiernan, Erin (2015): Open pledge.

I will work towards retroactively applying the pledge to current collaborations and papers that are underway, where possible. For new collaborations, being able to adhere to the pledge will be a condition of my participation. New grants proposals I am invited into as collaborator will have to contain clauses that make it clear I can adhere to the pledge while participating in the research upon funding.

I am excited to fully join the Open Science movement, and look forward to what it will bring.


5 thoughts on “​From now on, I will only do open science

  1. YES! This is wonderful. We need science to open and accessible to everyone, whether or not they subscribe to high impact scientific journals. I hope that more scientists will pledge to be open so we can better engage the public in our work. Excellent post.

  2. Fully sharing data is to be welcomed. It should be routine. But I don’t get the fuss for open access journals. Open access journals make publishing harder for younger scientists, as it moves the cost of publication from the library to the PI who can will refuse to pay. If you are the PI it means more time grant writing and less time doing research. Some journals charge an article progressing charge worth two months PhD salary. Most closed journals are available in most universities and where they are not available they can be accessed in libraries elsewhere. Open access is not progressive, unless you cut out the article processing charge.

    • I am recently more and more exposed to these kinds of problems, and yes, these are problems issues. It will be a while until we have a model that enables full open access to the literature without the problems you and others sketch.

  3. Nice one Lex! You should be sure when you reject the reviews to always fill in the comments box and say directly it’s because the journal isn’t Open – keep applying pressure on all directions possible to journals so they can’t escape change. When I have rejected reviews and replied why before I have even had editors write back saying they sympathise.

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