What is open science?

Wed 30 Nov Session 1 9:15 - 11:00

Chair: Pirjo-Leena Forsström (ATT-hanke/CSC)

Koen Vermeir (Paris): Open Science: The Big Picture


In my talk, I will discuss recent evolutions in Open Science, and relate them back to the history of science. I will focus especially on the early modern period, when open science was supposed to have developed, and I well reflect on what we can learn from such historical studies. In particular, I will critically assess the role of new technologies, market forces and the evaluation of researchers as driving forces for Open Science.

Werner Reichmann (Konstanz): Open Science, Epistemic Culture, and Social Structures


In my talk I want to show how the notion of open science can be thought sociologically. Open science can be located on two different social levels: On the one hand, it is a structural and macrosociological phenomenon. For example, the structure of markets connected to scientific research (publisher markets, software markets, data markets, conference markets, etc.) can be open or closed. Another example (one, we often forget) is the social structure of science. We know that inmany countries academia socially reproduces itself and that science is structurally closed to certain social groups (e.g. women, ethnic minorities, working class members).

On the other hand, open science can also be understood on a microsociological level. It includes certain research practices and a specific epistemic culture, understood as “those amalgams of arrangements and mechanisms–bonded through affinity, necessity, and historical incidence–which [...] make up how we know what we know.” (Knorr Cetina 1999:1; original emphasis). On a microsociological level, researchers enact and perform open science. For example, they develop certain practices of valuing good or bad results; of assessing good or bad methods; of giving credit to colleagues; of teaching knowledge to younger scholars; or of producing, archiving and sharing data. Depending on how these practices are performed, they may support or restrain the idea of open science. Recent data gathered in laboratory studies show that even researchers who are willingto change their epistemic culture toward open science are confronted with various uncertainties, risks, and opposing interests.

Based on these differentiations, my main argument is that it is (more or less) easy to build the structures of open science – in some countries this is already on a good way. But on the microsociological level of epistemic cultures, it is still an utopia.

In addition to that, I argue that increased openness and freedom always goes along with an increase of responsibility. To avoid unintended consequences, the transition to more open structures and more open epistemic practices should be accompanied carefully.

About the speaker:

Werner Reichmann earned his PhD in sociology from the University of Graz and is currently a researcher at the University of Konstanz where he works in the research project "Scopic Media". His research interests include the interplay between science, scientific knowledge, and technology on the one hand and society on the other. He is currently conducting empirical research in three fields of economics: economic forecasts, national debt managers, and neuro-economics.