Open Science can lead to “Feed Forward” mechanisms in research

Dr Ali Aslan Gümüsay talks about his experience with Open Science

Photo of Dr Ali Aslan Gümüsay

Three key learnings:

  • Open Science causes quantitative and qualitative visibility effects.
  • Open Science helps create a larger impact for society.
  • The majority of universities and research institutions offer professional support for Open Science practices and funding options, especially in the context of Open Access.

What has been your positive experience with Open Science?

AG: Generally I see Open Science as an opening into society. If I believe that I as a scientist should serve society, then Open Science is a tool for doing it. Regardless of possible benefits for my career. In addition there are positive effects, i.e. quantitative and qualitative visibility effects. Publications which I publish in Open Access are downloaded much more frequently. And I can reach not only my peers but also practitioners who refer to certain articles.

What benefits do you see when your research is received outside the scholarly community?

AG: What I get out of it depends on how I as a scientist want to operate. My work has a larger impact, a larger reach, a larger benefit. The space for discourse widens. That’s what I stand for and engage for. However, Open Science is a matter of knowledge and ability. I wish there was extra staff for Open Science in projects. Processing data, for instance, is something that can very well be done by data experts. I also want collaboration with actors practising science communication at faculties or institutions who could take care of writing journalistic texts or suitable distribution channels. Which channel works how and is best suited for my objective. Of course, a scientist must be convinced that Open Science is worth doing, but the actual implementation could rest with someone else. This would also set an example for junior researchers. You could show them that help is available in the science system. The requirements for scientists are so complex nowadays that they can only be managed in a team with many different professions. Openness is also important in the field I am working in as a business economist: companies expect to have their cases made public. There’s a difference between saying I will publish this in a journal seven years from now or in ZEIT next year.

Can you give an example?

AG: I collaborate with social enterprises that are purpose-driven. I can show them articles I have written for Harvard Business Review or for MIT Sloan Management Review, Pioneers Post, Süddeutsche etc. They can see the external impact which is very important to them. There’s a double benefit here: companies trust me and they can see themselves in the public eye as a case.

You just said that Open Science is a matter of knowledge. Where exactly do economists need more knowledge about Open Science?

AG: First off: I’m sure I don’t know everything there is to know about Open Science. But let’s start with junior researchers. Often they have no idea what funding options are available. My first three or four publications were not Open Access because I didn’t know from which budget to pay the article fees. I found the information by asking at the university or the institution. But you have to know there’s someone you can ask. Just as you need to know that you don’t have to grant all permissions when you submit to a journal. There are many Open Science practices that scientists have to know and learn step by step.

Was there a disruptive moment that motivated you to look for an open way?

AG: There hasn’t been a specific moment that I could name in hindsight. I always wanted to practise science that serves a purpose. Therefore I have always tried to communicate with society. During this process I have discovered new tools, again and again, in workshops, at conferences, when talking to colleagues. In the DFG Network we discussed how to publish our papers as a whole. And we discussed Open Peer Review, among other things. Yesterday we filed an application with the BMBF (Federal Ministry of Education and Research) where we cited the FAIR principles. Participating in the “Organizing in Times of Crisis” course inspired me to offer Open Access courses myself. I knew about MOOCs but never designed one. Now I would like to design and offer such courses myself.

Where did you get your tips?

AG: In my case really from peers, library and others. Some time ago I got an email from Hamburg University which listed the publishers with whom they had Open Access contracts. But I think I got most of my information at conferences, such as WK ORG hosted by the VHB, EGOS, Academy of Management. Conferences where peers meet and reflect on their scientific practices.      

You mentioned before that you publish in Open Access – where exactly?

AG: I try to publish directly in Open Access in the journals, and to apply for or use funds for it. Otherwise I use ResearchGate or as websites for uploading my findings. And I not only provide access to my papers, but I also discuss my methods openly. 

Where do you get the money for the Open Access fees you must pay?

AG: The Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society in Berlin provides a fixed sum annually for Open Access. Or I use third-party funds from projects that are specifically provided. One time Hamburg University had a cooperation with the publisher where costs were defrayed and I had to pay nothing.

You mentioned that you publish research findings before the journal article is finished. Which form do you choose for disclosing your results and thoughts?

AG: Mostly these are working papers. But I also publish in blogposts or newspaper articles my thoughts about papers whose publication may be a year or so in the future. I don’t want the world kept waiting five years for the results. My benefit is that I get feedback I can work into the article and I can improve the paper in this way. I also hold stakeholder dialogues with a segmented public or workshops where we discuss various aspects.

What is the reaction to such sharing?

AG: I have only had positive feedback so far. The thing is: it took four years from submission to publication for my article in the Academy of Management Journal. The first version of he working paper was finished two years earlier. We are talking about six years here. Certain findings are of immediate interest, however. There’s an interest in understanding certain matters, and sometimes people who read an article tell me via Twitter, LinkedIn or conversations that it has changed or influenced their thinking. In the social sciences in particular some things are urgent. We have published a lot about Covid-19. I also publish a lot about religion. There’s not much written about religion and management. But people are out there who tell me that the results have moved them and changed their behaviour.

Do you take note in other people’s publications whether data and scripts for the article are transparently available?

AG: I do not request them specifically, but if important articles have appendices I definitely look at them. That’s always useful. I like to read subsequent discussions and publications about some articles. There’s more and more discourse around an article, either through comments or on social media. It becomes ever more important.

Where do these discourses take place?

AG: In my environment such discourses mostly take place in blogs about organisational science, on Twitter and LinkedIn, at conferences and in the journals themselves. Academy of Management Discoveries (AMD) is a trailblazer among journals; they publish videos in selected passages of the text where the authors enter into discourse with their own article. That is, the editors ask questions of the authors which are answered in the video.   

Have you experienced Open Peer Review yourself as an author or reviewer?

AG: There are different formats here. What we did in our DFG Network is a special issue next year in “Research in the Sociology of Organizations”, edited by myself and three colleagues. We posted articles that are “conditionally accepted” online to Google Drive for all colleagues in the network and the special issue. They could all comment there. Of course, you have to ask yourself what “review” actually means. Most publishers have guidelines here. I think it’s good to have several reviewers. Non-anonymity is a problem in my view. Especially young scientists who are still in the midst of application procedures benefit if they can submit their honest feedback anonymously and without regard to power relations.

Are scientists themselves the ones who can do science communication best?

AG: Scientists are faced with an enormous increase in the diversity of their tasks. Therefore I believe that science communication should be professionalised. I used to work as a consultant at Boston Conmsulting Group. We consultants turned more and more into architects of ecosystems. We consulted on strategy. Around us we had IT consultants, operative agents etc. and we all worked together. My job here was to manage all these consulting entities. I see a parallel here to the science system. I need different actors who strive for new knowledge together. This knowledge must not only begenerated, but also processed and disseminated. My core competence as an organisation researcher is first the generation and then the coordination. For the other tasks we have professional communicators. Institutions should therefore invest in such ecosystems. And here I include the creation of institutional structures for interdisciplinary exchange and a transfer into the broad public. At HIIG we study digitisation as a cross-cutting issue and we have philosophers, sociologists, jurists etc. who share their work in common rooms and scholarly events and often publish jointly. This creates a different kind of exchange than can be found at a normal faculty.

What do you see as a future model for transferring scientific knowledge?

AG: Before results can be published a discourse must take place. That would provide impact because people can take something away from it. Once the results are in, they must be processed for different formats, e.g. for the press, political talks or the interested public. I think there should be actors in my ecosystem who process results of any kind and spread them around the world. And I am not only talking about individual results here. We also need meta-analyses and systematic evaluations where research findings are collected and aggregated and distributed accordingly. This also creates more robustness. At present there are few outlets for this and little appreciation. This must change. There are many publications analysing how companies have dealt with Covid-19. These ought to be united. It’s mostly the consulting companies who get involved here and who invest time and work in meta-analyses. But they work to different agenda. I think this is something scientists should do themselves more often.

Where do you see the current value of Open Science?

AG: In my bubble I see many economists who do Open Science because they believe in it. Regarding science communication: it is expected more and more and therefore there is more interest in and more engagement for it. Open Science is a little like an electric car. It‘s around but we don’t have enough service stations or charging points yet, so you can’t get around everywhere with it and it’s insufficient for all trips.

Have you been able to benefit from promoting Open Science?

AG: Many colleagues welcome what I do. I have just been voted among the top 10 junior scientists and engagement for science played a part in this. I don’t know if this was a decisive factor. But I see that openness, transparency and transfer are requested more and more often, be it in application procedures, by university presidents or people in committees. But I also tell all the PhD candidates in my discipline that achieving a professorship without an A+ publication is unlikely. 

You head a research group. What recommendations can you offer junior scientists?

AG: My recommendations are mostly tailored to the individual. If someone doesn’t want to stay in the science system and wants to do practical work after his PhD, they should publish in a journal for practitioners and position themselves as expert. To PhD candidates who want to remain in the science system I recommend to aim for quality rather than speed. Open Science can lead to “Feed Forward” mechanisms in research. What does that mean? I have realised in my communication with the public that new lines of thought arise that not only improve something already in existence but also create something new. With Open Science we find new ideas. And I think this is eminently important, that a forward-leading process is initiated.

Thank you!

About Dr Ali Aslan Gümüsay

Ali Aslan Gümüsay heads the research group Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Society at Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG). He currently works on his habilitation thesis at Hamburg University. He also heads the DFG Network “Grand Challenges & New Forms of Organizing”. Ali Aslan Gümüsay studied management at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford where he gained his PhD. From 2014 til 2016 he was Lecturer in Management at Magdalen College, University of Oxford. His research is focused on four areas: (1) values, meaning & hybridity in entrepreneurship; (2) societal challenges, innovation & new organisational forms; (3) societal complexity and science; (4) digitisation, AI and the future of work/leadership.