Generation O: Openness is the way to go

Open Science as the “new normal” after the crisis?

Photo of a laboratory situation
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For more than a year now we have been living with a pandemic that brought changes in all areas of life. The science system, too, has seen many shifts and here especially in those disciplines that are in the frontline of researching and fighting the virus. What has happened?

Can’t do transparent science? Of course you can!

The science system suffered a shock. Suddenly things that only activists had demanded until now, while the rest of the scientists eyed them rather skeptically, became possible.

  • All at once collaboration across disciplinary and national boundaries was the order of the day.
  • Study results were and are being published as pre-prints to accelerate exchange and discourse.
  • Data were and are being exchanged and shared.
  • Numerous researchers try to explain these phenomena to the general public using all kinds of channels.

We are living in an Open Science lab

New approaches are being tried to find and offer solutions together. Scientists go down new paths to make their work comprehensible and transparent. The Open Science movement finds itself confirmed in its long-standing calls. The topic has arrived, not only in the different scientific communities, but also in politics and the public.

Not everything claimed as open is truly open

The pandemic has not merely demonstrated the potential of Open Science. It has also uncovered how rocky the path ahead is. When universities must discontinue classroom teaching, means and ways for digital teaching are suddenly in demand, but not available. Professors and students embark for a new digital world together, and test tools and software that help to overcome the mandated distance.

Inside the laboratories, recent data and research findings can be shared, but the access to knowledge which was created earlier and is important for the further development is still locked by paywalls. Academic publishers grant temporary access to their journals, but the largest share of the accumulated knowledge is only accessible to those who have rich libraries or institutions behind them. This is especially true for researchers from emerging and developing countries. The question arises whether the pandemic will deepen the digital divide separating the high-performance research of the industrial nations from the rest of the world.

Science communication is in higher demand than ever

Not only access to knowledge must be reorganised, so must the finding of information and data. The processing of the research findings now being published in huge numbers is pushing the limit: new methods for indexing and discovery must be developed. Academic libraries face the challenge of meeting their communities’ new and different needs.

Science communication is in higher demand than ever: society has a dramatically increased need to know and to understand what is going on. Researchers must explain more clearly and most of all more comprehensibly how scientific work and the creation of scientific knowledge take place and yet conform to the rules of good scientific practice. The debate caused by the Heinsberg study in Germany shows that communication with the general public is fundamentally different from communication within a scientific community. (An analysis of the case can be found here: DOI:

How do you become an Open Science adept?

New and exciting fields of research are opening up and the willingness to engage in Open Science is growing. Generation O is growing. Surveys and studies show that researchers understand, desire and approve the principles of openness and transparency. But implementing these principles in practice presents them with concrete problems for which they want support.

  1. How do you start?
    The first step is the easiest: find out about colleagues who are already active in this area and network with them. The Open Science movement is large enough today to find like-minded people within one’s own community.
  2. What can you do?
    The next step can be exciting: try out which tools are available and how they function. There are workshops and conferences where you can share ideas and find support, such as the Open Science Conference or the Open Science Barcamp. Platforms and portals offer introductions and support for your trial runs. Look at the work sheets in our Open Science Magazine.
  3. How do you ensure long-term success?
    As a last step you need to pass on your own experience and to inspire new advocates to foster scholarly exchange. Start your own Open Science group or community!

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