Challenges for openness in research

Wed Nov 30 session 2 11:30 - 13:15

Chair: Antti Poikola (OKF/HIIT)

Manuela Fernández Pinto (Universidad de los Andes): Open Science closed for business?


Science studies scholars, including a number of historians and philosophers of science, have raised important concerns regarding the current trend towards the privatization and commercialization of scientific research. Financial conflicts of interest, several cases of scientific fraud, and research limitations from strong IP laws have all led to questioning the epistemic and social justice appropriateness of industry-funded research. At first sight, the Open Science movement, which promotes transparency, openness and accountability, seems to target precisely the type of limitations uncovered in commercially-driven research. The plea to open science, however, has primarily focused on publicly funded research. I argue that this particular focus challenges the appropriateness of OS. If OS advocates promote the openness of publicly funded research, at least in part, to foster new business opportunities and joint private-public ventures, as well as new markets for the development of online ICTs, then Open Science ends up contributing to furthering the commercialization of science, without addressing any of the epistemological and social justice limitations related to this type of research. Accordingly, the asymmetry between private and public science, present in the current plea for OS, does not seem to properly contribute to the values of transparency, democracy, and accountability that the OS movement fiercely promotes.

About the speaker:

Prof. Fernández Pinto earned her PhD in history and philosophy of science from the University of Notre Dame, where she focused on agnotology and the challenge that the studies of ignorance pose to the philosophy of science. She is currently assistant professor at the Department of Philosophy and the Center for Applied Ethics at the Universidad de los Andes. She is also an affiliated researcher at the Academy of Finland Centre of Excellence for the Philosophy of the Social Sciences. Her research interests include social epistemology, the science and values debate, the history and philosophy of economics, and feminist philosophy of science. She is based in Bogotá (Colombia).

Inkeri Koskinen (Helsinki): Commercialisation Threatening Openness in Transdisciplinary Research


In transdisciplinarity extra-academic agents, their viewpoints, expertise, or forms of knowledge are included in scientific research. The aim is to intensify science-society relations, and to give the users and beneficiaries of knowledge a role in questions of its production. This is frequently referred to as 'co-production' or 'Mode 2 science', and has recently been discussed as an important element of 'open science'. Researchers break both disciplinary boundaries and the customary boundaries of science in order to produce socially relevant knowledge, and offer solutions to multifaceted, complex, or wicked problems.

Collaboration with private enterprises and other utilisers of knowledge is nothing new in many academic fields. Philosophers have argued that commercialisation has changed research practices in ways that potentially undermine the conditions for producing trustworthy knowledge. When driven by commercial interests, 'co-production' of knowledge between academic and extra-academic agents may lead to secrecy in science, thus preventing critical assessments and decreasing the trustworthiness of the results. However, commercial collaborations are now often understood in transdisciplinary terms, and the discourse on transdisciplinarity has brought about new meanings to them. Transparency and openness are emphasised in the transdisciplinary literature. There is a strong tension between the push towards secrecy in commercialised research and the emphasis on openness in transdisciplinarity. On what conditions could transdisciplinarity increase openness in scientific research that serves commercial purposes?

About the speaker:

Dr Koskinen is a researcher at the University of Helsinki specialising in the philosophy of the humanities and the social sciences. She is the recipient of the 2015 Finnish Science Book of the Year Award for her book Villi Suomen historia. She currently heads a project entitled A New Problem of Demarcation: Democratisation of Science as a Challenge to Objectivity. She is based in Helsinki (Finland).