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(February 21st, 2017) Still reluctant to adopt an open science approach? Belgian researchers offer tips and good arguments.

Nobody can deny that science is getting more open and reaching more people. People, who once had very little contact with scientific results, can now read the latest discoveries in some of the open science publications, like PLoS and others. But how far should scientists go to broadcast their results? And who really benefits from open science? Paola Masuzzo, biochemist, based at Ghent University in Belgium, discusses these and other questions in a paper recently published in PeerJ Preprints (Obviously, an open science publication).

Historically, scientific results have been accessible to only a handful of scientists capable of deciphering their cryptic messages. However, things are slowly changing as more researchers realise this process to spread the information is broken. "We publish research that has been publicly funded and yet we need to pay journals," says Masuzzo. "Furthermore, science has been experiencing a reproducibility crisis, mostly because of the lack of open materials and open data. Things need to change, and more and more people are now realising this."

With widespread access to the Internet, what's also changing is the way scientists publish their results. These days, scientific dissemination can be done in a variety of ways, including posting a preprint online for free. While many may worry that this approach will drop the quality of science published, Masuzzo does not agree. "The quality and relevance of scientific works will always be 'judged' by peer-reviewers, and by the community at large, so I really do not believe the quality of science is at risk," says the researcher. "On the contrary, it can only benefit from bigger audience, more feedback, broader input."

Masuzzo is keen to point out another benefit that may not be immediately obvious. Publishing in open science publications can increase the chances of recognition, especially for early-career scientists. "There is evidence supporting the fact that scientific works released with open access attract, on average, more visibility and therefore more citations. Same goes for open data. Cool, right?" asks Masuzzo. As such, the researcher believes, the sooner this openness begins in one's career, the better. "Every science curriculum for graduate students should incorporate an open science training by default, which is sadly still not the case."

For Masuzzo, the crucial point in this discussion is that science results should be freely available, not only to scientists but also to the general public. "It is absolutely both," defends the researcher. The public has the right to have access to the latest discoveries, especially if they were funded with public money. In addition, this would be a perfect way to increase trust in scientists. "As scientists, we would really like to gain back the trust of the general public, then the way to go is definitely the one of openness, transparency and sharing!"

Masuzzo continues, devoted to promoting the benefits of open science and future plans include re-writing the PeerJ Preprint manuscript, to incorporate valuable feedback from the community. "I will keep advocating [for open science], which seems more than necessary at this time!" concludes the researcher.

Alex Reis

Photo: Hodan

Last Changes: 03.17.2017